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Government weighs new Covid restrictions, aims to close late-night "cafés" quickly

The cabinet is to announce a ban on late-night cafés on Monday or Tuesday, Yle has learned.

 Yökahvilatoimintaa Populus-baarissa Aleksis Kiven kadulla Helsingissä Marraskuussa 2020.
A ‘night café’ at the Populus karaoke bar in Helsinki’s Kallio neighbourhood on 21 November 2020. Image: Mikko Stig / Lehtikuva

The government plans to issue new restrictions on so-called night cafés soon, and they may take effect this week, Yle has learned.

The daily Helsingin Sanomat was first to report this on Monday. The rules, which are set to come into force on 26 November, will force all catering businesses to stop serving at 10pm and close their doors at 11pm.

They will then be able to open again at 5am at the earliest.

Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) told Yle on Friday that more restrictions on restaurants in Uusimaa were on the way.

Authorities have been concerned about the infection risk at "night cafés", which some pub owners have launched during the epidemic to circumvent restrictions on opening hours.

These are nightspots that are open nearly all night but do not serve alcohol. Alcohol sales are banned between 11 pm or midnight and 7 am, but some nightspots reopen an hour after closing time, continuing to offer non-alcoholic drinks and karaoke, for instance.

The concern is particularly high in parts of Uusimaa, where the epidemic shifted into the community transmission phase last week.

PM: New state of emergency or Uusimaa closure possible

Last week Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) said that there was still room for Uusimaa authorities to tighten restrictions.

On Monday Marin called on local officials to impose stricter restrictions, warning that the imposition of a new state of emergency and/or a new closure of Uusimaa’s borders are not out of the question.

"If the regions don't get the situation under control and it gets considerably worse, it is possible that we would be forced into a situation where we have to declare an emergency and activate the emergency legislation," said Marin. "That's why I'm seriously urging regions and municipalities in uusimaa and elsewhere in Finland to take sufficient action in time."

The government is recommending that public events and group sports and leisure activities for people aged over 20 should be cancelled in areas where the coronavirus epidemic has moved into the higher-risk community transmission phase. As of last week, this includes Helsinki and its neighbouring cities of Espoo, Kauniainen and Vantaa.

On Friday the Uusimaa coronavirus task force decided to forbid all public events with more than 20 people as well as contact and team sports for those over the age of 20.

Education authorities in the region also told Yle on Monday that they had made plans to recommence staggered distance learning, if the Covid situation demands it.

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