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Friday's papers: Covid upswing, climate protests and a firewood vending machine

Despite an increase in Covid hospitalisations, Helsingin Sanomat finds no backing among key MPs for vaccination mandates in Finland.

Sairaanhoitaja Kemi Omodona valmistelee koronarokote Helsingin Messukeskuksessa.
Nurse Kemi Omodona preparing a coronavirus vaccination at Helsinki's Fair Centre. Image: Jorge Gonzalez / Yle

The Helsinki tabloid Ilta-Sanomat looks at the latest figures for Covid hospitalisations in Finland, pointing out that at a Thursday press conference, Pasi Pohjola of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health said that non-vaccinated people accounted for 74 percent of coronavirus patients receiving hospital care in September.

"The epidemic situation has clearly deteriorated, affecting, of course, the unvaccinated population and, to some extent, those who are only protected by one dose. This raises questions about what measures can be taken to reverse the situation," Pohjola said.

Over the past two weeks, according to the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), unvaccinated 12-79-year-olds have been hospitalised 14 times more often than people in the same age group who have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

Last week, 22 new Covid patients were rushed to intensive care, IS noted. Pohjola estimated that nationwide, Finland has the capacity to provide about 50 intensive care units for coronavirus patients. Once that critical point is exceeded, a lack of hospital resources would begin to be reflected in other medical treatments requiring intensive care, he added.

IS further writes that Helsinki University Hospital Chief Physician Asko Järvinen told the paper earlier this week that he does not yet know of a single fully vaccinated person who has been treated in an intensive care unit in his hospital.

"No" to vaccination mandate

Finland's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat, reports that even with an upswing in infections and the slowing pace of vaccination uptake, the nation's main political parties are not in favour of reimposing restrictions.

HS asked MPs from the six largest parliamentary parties what measures should be taken to deal with the worsening situation.

The paper posed the question of what should be done to ensure that citizens who are hesitant and critical of vaccines also take two doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

Antti Lindtman, chair of the SDP's parliamentary group: "More measures are needed to keep the vaccination threshold as low as possible, more walk-in points and vaccine buses are needed. Enhanced, targeted information is needed for groups and areas where vaccination coverage is still low."

Ville Tavio, chair of the Finns Party's parliamentary group: "No action is needed. It is a voluntary choice for every adult whether or not to take the vaccine. News about the coronavirus has been reported every day of the year, so I find it quite unlikely that anyone does not know that vaccination is recommended."

National Coalition MP Mia Laiho: "Vaccinations must be available, at a low threshold in places where people move about. This needs to be intensified. It is important to provide information about the benefits, but also the side effects of the vaccines, so that there is a wider understanding of how few side effects there are in relation to the number of people vaccinated in the world."

Juha Pylväs, chair of the Centre Party's parliamentary group: "We need to educate people more about vaccines and make vaccination as easy as possible. Add pop-up points where you can get vaccines constantly and easily."

Emma Kari, chair of the Greens parliamentary group: "There is a need for more encouragement and imaginative campaigns to get unvaccinated people to take the jabs. The dissemination of false information must be addressed."

Jussi Saramo, chair of the parliamentary group of the Left Alliance: "Raising awareness is the most important thing, because there is so much misinformation circulating."

Should compulsory vaccination be introduced?

SDP’s Lindtman: "Coercion wouldn't work in this situation. I am afraid that it would change attitudes towards vaccines."

Tavio of the Finns Party: "It is not necessary."

NCP's Laiho: "As a matter of principle, the National Coalition Party does not support mandated vaccinations, but it is necessary to assess whether vaccinations could be required for those in jobs working with people at risk."

Centre Party's Pylväs: "The Centre has a negative attitude towards compulsory vaccinations."

Greens' Kari: "We want to trust that people want to take care of each other and take the vaccines. I would not move towards forced vaccination."

Left Alliance's Saramo: " I do not support mandated vaccination."

Climate demos to continue

"We do not do it because we think it's fun, but because we have to," Elokapina climate activist spokesperson Kaisamaija Uljas told the Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet when asked about the recent protests blocking traffic in the capital.

A protest by the group -- which is the the Finnish branch of the environmental group Extinction Rebellion -- on Wednesday, blocked traffic for several hours on a bridge near the city centre. The action came without warning.

"It was quite spontaneous. We did not want the police to get there before us, so that we could block the road properly and reach out with our message to more people," Uljas explained.

Hufvudstadsbladet writes that this week the movement sent out invitations to a number of politicians asking them to meet for discussions on climate issues.

None of those invited came.

This week's episode of All Points North asked if Finland afford not to act on climate change. You can listen to the full podcast using the embedded player here, via Yle Areena, Spotify or Apple Podcasts or on your usual podcast player using the RSS feed. Paper review continues after audio.

Audio: Yle News

"Unfortunately, our message has not been received the way we wanted. That is why we must continue to protest," Uljas told the paper, adding that Elokapina has plans for more actions like the protest closing the bridge in Helsinki on Wednesday.

While she did not provide details to Hufvudstadsbladet, when asked if similar protests will be seen on Friday or over the weekend, Uljas replied, "Yes, we can promise that."

A total of 123 people were arrested in connection with Elokapina's protest on Wednesday. Hufvudstadsbladet reports that about 1,000 people say they are active participants in the protest movement.

Firewood vending machines

The Oulu-based Kaleva tells readers the tale of how Valto Vaaraniemi, a project worker at the Centre for Sustainable Development, came up against a not uncommon problem when stopping at a camp site while canoeing on the Äkäsjoki river.

"We were all wet and found that there was no firewood at the campfire site at all. It was cold and we would have liked to roast some sausages. At that moment, we thought that we would have been willing to pay for some wood," Vaaraniemi recalls.

At first it was a joke, the idea of a firewood vending machine at campsites. Soon after, however, the matter was under serious design planning at the Centre for Sustainable Development, and the City of Oulu gave a green light to the proposal.

Last winter, the hardware was created, and Oulu University of Applied Sciences student Juho Kettunen devoted his thesis to designing the software to run it.

The first public firewood vending machine was installed at a camping site in Oulu this week. The site previously had supplies of wood on hand for campers, but they tended to get stolen as soon as they were delivered.

Purchases are made by mobile phone, entering the vending machine code and choosing a payment method, causing a door to pop open revealing a stack of firewood.

A large "armful" of ready firewood costs 3.95 euros. The vending machine has 30 hatches, and the device notifies the Centre for Sustainable Development when the wood starts running low.

The plan is now to test the machine to see how well it functions during the cold winter months, and if a success, to install them at more sites in and around Oulu.

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