Finland's government is pushing ahead with plans to introduce a Covid pass, following a meeting of ministers at the House of the Estates in Helsinki on Thursday afternoon.
"There are still many open questions that need to be answered. At this point, it is impossible to promise that the pass will come or when it will come," Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) told the media following the conclusion of the meeting.
"The government has given the green light to the Covid pass and preparations will continue," Marin added.
Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä (Cen) told reporters immediately after the meeting that there was broad agreement between the coalition parties over the need for the certificate.
"It [the pass] is an important tool so that we will not need restrictions any more," Lintilä said.
The government also decided at Thursday afternoon's meeting to offer coronavirus vaccines to all 12- to 15-year-olds, starting as early as next week.
"Fortunately, we have received an extra batch of approximately 200,000 doses of vaccine in Finland, from which these vaccinations [for 12- to 15-year-olds] can be started without interfering with other vaccination programmes," Marin told Yle's A-studio on Wednesday evening.
Restrictions for bars, restaurants in spreading regions
Furthermore, the government will reintroduce restrictions on the opening hours and operations of bars and restaurants due to the deteriorating coronavirus situation in regions considered to be in the spreading — or most serious — phase of the epidemic.
This means that bars and restaurants in the regions of Southwest Finland, Pirkanmaa and Kymenlaakso, as well as the Helsinki metropolitan area, will have to adapt to new regulations that are due to take effect from Sunday.
The measures include the opening hours of bars being limited to between 7am and 10pm, while restaurants can stay open one hour later. A ban on karaoke and dancing indoors has also been reintroduced.
There will be no changes to the opening hours of bars or restaurants in regions considered to be in the acceleration phase of the pandemic.
Changes to external border traffic
The government has also decided to make changes to the restrictions on Finland's external border traffic, according to the Ministry of the Interior. External border traffic refers to traffic between Finland and countries not belonging to the Schengen area.
The regulations currently in effect will be amended, beginning from 9 August, so that entry restrictions are removed for Ukrainian residents traveling to Finland from Ukraine.
Restrictions on entry will be restored for residents of Azerbaijan, South Korea, Japan, Moldova, Serbia and Singapore travelling from these countries to Finland.
If a person arriving from the above-mentioned countries has not received a full series of vaccinations, the permitted entry criteria are a resident returning to Finland or other EU or Schengen countries, transit of regular scheduled flight traffic at the airport, or other essential reasons.
A person can travel to Finland from any country by presenting an acceptable certificate of the full vaccination series.
These new regulations aside, the restrictions that entered into force on 19 July still apply.
The latest restrictions are in effect until 22 August.
Protesters demand "same rules for all"
A small but vocal group of protestors, representing cultural sector workers, gathered near the House of the Estates while the government meeting was ongoing to demonstrate against coronavirus restrictions, demanding a fairer distribution of measures.
Restrictions have hit especially hard on the cultural and event industry, with many workers in the sector unable to work for the past year and a half. At the same time, the protestors pointed out, shopping malls have been allowed to operate as normal.
"Same rules for all," the protesters chanted.