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Government proposes emergency powers to curb Covid

The decrees allowing for changes to the Emergency Powers Act will move to Parliament for approval.

Pääministeri Sanna Marin hallituksen tiedotustilaisuudessa Helsingissä 5. maaliskuuta 2021.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) speaking at the press conference on Friday afternoon. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

The government has issued a decree to Parliament on bringing into force four sections of the Emergency Powers Act to tackle the worsening coronavirus situation.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday afternoon, Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) said that the sections allow for centralised communication, clarifying of responsibilities between different authorities and the easing of pressure on health care services.

"The coronavirus situation has deteriorated considerably in recent weeks, with more than 700 infections diagnosed today," Marin said. "We are in a fight against the virus, which is spreading ever more quickly. This fight is winnable, but requires responsible action from everyone."

The Emergency Powers Act is an infrequently-used law that is introduced only in crisis situations, such as to secure the livelihood of the population and the national economy.

The specific sections of the act that the government proposes to invoke are 86, 88, 106 and 107.

Section 106 centralises responsibility for communicating about the crisis with the Prime Minister's Office while section 107 allows the government to decide which authority should decide on a matter if there is any ambiguity.

Marin said the these two sections would be introduced because of a need for "clearer, more consistent and citizen-friendly communication."

Sections 86, 88 relate to healthcare services

Section 86 relates to the operations of social and health care units. It would allow the government as well as Regional State Administrative Agencies (Avi's) to order both public and private healthcare providers to make changes to their operations in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

Section 88 gives municipalities the right to waive certain obligations on healthcare, health protection and social services.

"This will allow healthcare units to shift their resources from non-emergency care to coronavirus and other emergency care," Social Services Minister Krista Kiuru (SDP) said.

Sections 86 and 88, Kiuru added, will help to ensure that healthcare services have the necessary tools should intensive care units become overburdened with coronavirus patients.

No decision on curfew

In response to a media question about the possible introduction of a curfew in Finland, PM Marin said she did not want to speculate at this point as no such decision has yet been made.

"It is important to be prepared for all necessary measures," Marin added.

Earlier this week, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat wrote that the government was considering measures restricting fundamental rights, including possible introduction of curfews and restrictions on movement.

Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson (SPP) told Yle's Ykkösaamu morning tv show last Saturday that in practice, a curfew could mean limiting people's movements in certain areas or at certain times of the day.

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