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Friday's papers: Epidemic strategy questioned, online entrance exams, winter in May

Morning papers look at criticism of coronavirus strategy, university entrance exams, and the chance of fresh snow.

ihmisiä ulkoilemassa Kaivopuiston rannassa
Helsinki residents in a seaside park in late April. Image: Marja Väänänen / Yle

The Finnish government's strategy to deal with the novel coronavirus epidemic has come under fire from a group of dozens of experts in various fields.

The Jyväskylä newspaper Keskisuomalainen carries an STT Finnish News Agency report on an open letter to the government signed by 46 experts including doctors and medical researchers, economists, educators and leaders in technology fields.

First published in the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat, the open letter says that rather than implementing efforts to slow the spread of the virus, the government should impose a strategy of suppression, which they claim could eliminate the threat within five weeks.

This, they say, would be overwhelmingly the best strategy in terms of both health and the economy.

As evidence, they pointed to the success of a suppression strategy in countries such as New Zealand, Hong Kong and Austria.

The group claims that only slowing the spread of the virus maintains an atmosphere of uncertainty that will continue to hinder economic activity.

They also said that suppression is the only ethically justifiable option, pointing out that in terms of medical ethics and human rights deaths must be prevented, not merely reduced.

Infections fall in Somali community

Helsinki freesheet Helsingin Uutiset, reports that the head of Helsinki's Department of Social Affairs and Health Juha Jolkkonen says that the level of coronavirus infections in the capital's Somali community has peaked and are falling.

In April, officials said that in proportion to the number of residents in the capital, 1.8 percent of Somali speakers were infected, compared to 0.2 percent for the city as a whole.

At that time, it was pointed out that many Somali-background people work in jobs that can't be done remotely, such as salespersons, cleaners, bus drivers and nurses. The higher infection rate was also attributed, in part, to poor communication on the part of city authorities.

Jolkkonen told the paper that communication had improved and city officials have worked in cooperation with Somali community organisations. Communication has also been upgraded for other immigrant language groups, he added.

Two weeks ago the city opened a coronavirus testing station at the Stoa cultural centre in the Itäkeskus district, an area with a proportionally large immigrant and immigrant-background population.

Online entrance exams

With restrictions on large gatherings still in place, the nation's universities have turned to online testing for entrance examinations.

The first to take place was an exam by the education faculty of the the University of Eastern Finland on Monday that was a minor disaster. Of the close to 800 hopefuls sitting the exam, around 100 were either unable to complete a log-in to the test site or their connections were delayed, cutting the time that they had to complete the exam.

The university says it will be organising a new exam for those who suffered technical problems.

Oulu's Kaleva on Friday carries a Q&A with Oulu University's Vice Rector for Education Helka-Liisa Hentilä about plans at her school to hold online entrance exams.

Hentilä told they paper that she does not expect to see any problems, in part because they will use technical systems that have already been in use and are being tested again. In addition, applicants sitting the exam are being provided some of the electronic tools they need for the exam in advance so they can test them on their own home systems and work out any problems before exam day.

As for the question of fraud prevention, Hentilä explained that these will be two phase exams, each part taken at a different time, something expected to reduce the potential for fraud. In addition, some of the evaluation will be oral, and required essays will be checked by the university's plagiarism detection software.

She added that any cheating always leads to the rejection of applicants.

Winter again?

The tabloid Iltalehti tells readers that winter may be making a cold, snowy return to most parts of the country within a few days.

Spring is well advanced in southern Finland and the southern coastal city of Porvoo saw a high temperature of 17.9C on Tuesday - the highest recorded in the country this year.

However, on Sunday or soon after, an area stretching from Lapland as far south as Tampere may see as much as 20cm of fresh snow cover.

The Foreca forecast reported by Iltalehti depends on what a low pressure area currently over neighbouring Sweden does. It is possible that it will move into Finland bringing snow to the north with its tail dropping sleet and snow along the west coast and central regions no later than on Monday.

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