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Justice Minister: Government preparing to introduce curfew if situation worsens

The Prime Minister's office is preparing amendments to the Emergency Powers Act, permitting a curfew, the minister said.

Anna-Maja Henriksson vieraili Ylen Ykkösaamussa lauantaina 27. helmikuuta.
Justice Minister and Swedish People's Party chair Anna-Maja Henriksson was a guest on Yle's Ykkösaamu morning tv show on Saturday. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson (SPP) confirmed on Yle's Ykkösaamu morning tv show that the Prime Minister's Office is preparing amendments to the Emergency Powers Act which would allow for the introduction of a curfew.

According to Henriksson, the coronavirus situation is deteriorating at such a rate that, for the sake of assurance, the government is now preparing for the worst.

She added that the Ministry of Justice is not yet involved in the preparation.

"The curfew is being prepared by the Prime Minister's Office, not in the Ministry of Justice," Henriksson said.

The minister explained that a curfew could mean restrictions on movement in certain areas or at certain times, when people are not allowed to go outside. She cited some similar wide-ranging curfews in Europe, which have allowed only essential commerce such as food shopping.

"I do not want that in Finland," Henriksson added.

Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reported (external link in Finnish) on Friday that Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s (SDP) office has already given the task of preparing for changes to articles of the Emergency Powers Act that prohibit curfews.

High threshold for postponement of municipal elections

Henriksson also told Ykkösaamu that she met with the party secretaries of the parliamentary parties on Friday to discuss the possible postponement of the municipal elections, due to be held on 18 April, because of the constantly deteriorating coronavirus situation.

"The decision needs to be made next week, with a few questions still to be answered," Henriksson said, adding that the threshold for postponing the election is very high.

Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson was a guest on the All Points North podcast this week. You can listen to the full podcast using the embedded player here or via Yle Areena, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or your usual podcast player using the RSS feed.

Article continues after audio.

Audio: Yle News

However, she added that if the situation worsens, exceptional circumstances including a curfew may come into force.

Henriksson had previously stated that the decision on whether or not to postpone the election would be made by the end of February, but the last deadline for a decision is 9 March, when the lists of candidates must be finalised.

Support for bars, restaurants next on agenda

On Thursday, the government announced a partial shutdown from 8 to 28 March, which includes the closure of bars and restaurants in regions considered to be in the "spreading" and "accelerating" phase of the epidemic.

Henriksson said that the government is ready to continue to support financially viable businesses affected by the shutdown.

"In this year's first budget amendment, a total of 20 million euros will be allocated to the culture and arts sector in the form of coronavirus subsidies and grants. Next, of course, it is especially important to support businesses in the restaurant industry," Henriksson said.

Last year, Finland took on additional debt of about 20 billion euros to help tackle the coronavirus situation, part of which has not yet been used, and Henriksson added that she sees no need for additional borrowing.

"The financial interest reserves at this stage, which we have to get over the crisis, will be enough for some time to come. Fewer estimates have been distributed through cost support. It all depends on how long the crisis lasts and what kind of constraints we have to live with," Henriksson said.

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