The government has moved to adopt emergency measures to safeguard medicines and medical supplies to help stave off the spread of novel coronavirus in Finland.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said that two emergency regulations will be activated, one of them as a matter of urgency.
The more critical measure will limit the sale of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals used in the public healthcare system. It will remain in force until 13 April.
The second regulation relates to the social and health care system and its management. It relieves municipalities of the duty to provide residents with timely non-emergency care in accordance with the law and to manage professionals' hours of work, their work obligations and to organise training for staff. This measure takes effect from Wednesday 18 March.
Interior Minister: Police to enforce limit on public gatherings
In addition, police will ensure that members of the public observe restrictions on public gatherings announced yesterday, as far as their resources allow, according to Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo.
She urged people in Finland not to travel abroad and noted that anyone arriving in the country from overseas will be quarantined for 14 days. There will be no restrictions on the movement of goods, and people for whom travel is unavoidable will be allowed to do so.
According to Ohisalo, asylum seekers already in Finland will still have the right to apply for asylum. She also declared that additional resources will be provided for internal security, adding that her ministry has been in contact with the finance ministry to secure additional funding.
When the PM was later asked about the government’s new recommended restrictions on travel and gathering in groups larger than ten people, and whether there would be penalties for not following them, Marin said it was a complicated question.
“We can roll out the restrictions. Eventually we may also need to call for further restrictions on [domestic travel], but not yet, maybe later. How would [such activity] be monitored? We recommend that everyone avoids risking their health. You do this by staying at home. If the restrictions aren’t followed, then we must consider even further interventions of fundamental rights. I hope that everyone follows [the guidelines] on their own,” Marin said.
Return to Finnish healthcare or take your chances abroad
Meanwhile Transport and Communications Minister Timo Harakka said the emergency regulations will not extend to essential work travel and that this would prevent a slowdown in business activity.
He also noted that the restrictions on movement will strike a blow at Finnish logistics firms and said they should be compensated.
He added that Finnish citizens and residents abroad will now have to consider whether to remain where they are or return to be cared for by the Finnish healthcare system.
Harakka repeated the government’s line that the shipping and freight of goods will continue, in order to secure the country’s industrial and business sectors.
In regard to firms that are struggling from the epidemic’s effects, the PM said that government members just met with business leaders and unions on Monday evening. Marin said that she hopes they will quickly come up with new ways to help Finnish companies and secure jobs.
Edited at 5:53pm 17 March 2020 to add ministers' comments.