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Friday's papers: Support for easing restrictions, exports suffer, few travellers

A fresh newspaper poll shows that most Finns back the government's plans to gradually lift restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Kuvassa on hiljainen Helsinki-Vantaan lentoasema.
Helsinki-Vantaa Airport on Thursday was still seeing few passengers. Little change is reported from when this photo was taken earlier in the week. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Jyväskylä's Keksisuomalainen is among the papers carrying the results of a poll by the Uutissuomalainen news group showing that a majority of Finns back government plans to gradually lift the restrictions on everyday life put in place to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Nearly 60 percent of the 1,000 people polled in the survey between 6 May and 11 May said they are very or rather satisfied with the government's plan and timetable for lifting restrictions.

One-fifth were very or rather dissatisfied by government actions.

Commenting on the poll, the director of Turku University's Centre for Parliamentary Studies Markku Jokisipilä said that the results reflected backing for a step-by-step easing aimed at a return to normal everyday life.

"If the [poll] is read from the perspective of the government, then it can be fairly satisfied with its own performance. There is no sense of harsh criticism in the air," Jokisipilä told the Uutissuomalainen news group.

Women were found to be slightly more in favour of the government's plan. Those over 65 years old were the most satisfied with official measures.

On the political spectrum, supporters of parties in the ruling coalition, especially backers of the Social Democratic Party and the Left Alliance, were significantly more satisfied with the government's plan that were opposition party supporters. Finns Party supporters were the most critical.

Few travellers

On Wednesday the European Commission published a list of recommendations aimed at ensuring safety as travel restrictions within the bloc ease up. And on Thursday, Finland eased cross-border traffic, allowing commuter traffic based on employment or assignment and other essential traffic.

The tabloid Iltalehti reports that judging from the scene at Helsinki Airport on Thursday, the change had little impact.

The paper published a video clip by an air traveller identified as "Teemu" of the check-in hall and boarding gates at Helsinki Airport showing only a handful of people moving around the otherwise almost eerily deserted spaces.

According to airport operator Finavia, there were only 19 scheduled passenger plane departures from Helsink-Vantaa all day Thursday, and one of those was cancelled.

Both Finland's state-owned airline Finnair and airports authority Finavia announced on Tuesday that customer-facing staff would be required to wear face masks.

Iltalehti quoted Teemu as saying that all of the employees he saw at the airport Thursday were wearing masks and gloves. Shops were still closed.

Even though cross-border travel restrictions have been eased, the paper reminds its readers that the government does not recommend travel abroad for leisure.

Exports suffering

Finland's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat, carries a feature article examining some of the impacts of the coronavirus epidemic on Finland's export industries and supply chains from around the world.

It kicks off with a look at the situation, and problems encountered at the Vieremäki plant of the forestry vehicles and machinery manufacturer Ponsse.

Company CEO Juho Nummela told the paper that the first phase began as early as in February when it started becoming difficult to access computer processors and circuit boards.

The company's forest harvesters contain electronic parts are produced in Asia, even though the machinery is manufactured by Ponsse and its subsidiaries here in Finland.

"In March the epidemic started closing factories in northern Italy and Germany. So, we couldn't get parts from their either. In April we had to cut production back to a single shift because of the lack of components," Nummela explained.

In late March, the company's sales staff and distributors abroad started reporting that business was at a standstill.

Helsingin Sanomat writes that this same situation applies to most of Finland's export industries.

Part of the reason, it writes, is psychological. The epidemic reduces trust in personal health, in the economy, in the future. When trust is shaken, economic activity grinds to a halt. People are unwilling to take on debt to purchase forest harvesters or anything else because no one knows how long the epidemic will last and, for example, what will happen to their jobs.

Some sectors are especially suffering, and in this respect the newspaper points to the travel industry and industries dependent on exports.

However, Finland's largest single export sector, the forest processing industry, has so far been doing relatively well. Less paper than usual is being sold, but plenty of pulp and cardboard is. Online shopping has seen a surge in popularity as the coronavirus epidemic continues, and for the most part, purchases are packaged and shipped in cardboard boxes.

Rare neighbours with a rare brood

The local Helsinki paper Helsingin Uutiset reports that a pair of white-tailed eagles, nicknamed Amalia and Nadi who are nesting in a nature preserve on the edge of the city's Vanhakaupunki district are the proud parents of a rare set of triplets.

A few decades ago, white-tailed eagles were on the brink of extinction. They have made a strong comeback and now, apparently for the first time ever in Europe a pair has nested in preserve in an urban area, in this case, only five kilometres from the city centre.

Review continues after the photo.

Merikotka hetkeä ennen vapauttamista luontoon.
File photo. A white-tailed eagle. Image: Johanna Manu / Yle

The tree housing their nest is on a small island which is also home to grey herons and great cormorants. The white-tailed eagles have proven to be unpleasant neighbours, though, as their diet includes the eggs of other species.

For the most part, though, the eagles feed their young on fish. The names given to this pair, Amalia and Nadi, were in honour of a Helsinki husband and wife couple who made their living fishing along the shores of the Vanhakaupunki district in the 19th century.

Helsingin Uutiset says that the Vanhakaupunki nature reserve is home to 125 different species of birds.

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