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Ministry: Last drinks at 10pm in five regions in Finland

New alcohol service and closing times will take effect in regions where Covid-19 infections are accelerating.

Perhe- ja peruspalveluministeri Krista Kiuru tiedotustilaisuudessa ravintoloita koskevasta sääntelystä 7. lokakuuta
Family Affairs and Social Services Minister Krista Kiuru said on Wednesday that the coronavirus situation was deteriorating in many areas. Image: Emmi Korhonen / Lehtikuva

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health said on Wednesday that restaurants, bars and nightclubs in five regions will be required to serve last drinks at 10pm and close their doors at 11pm starting from Sunday.

"Currently Uusimaa, Southwest Finland, Pirkanmaa, Kanta-Häme and Ostrobothnia are in an acceleration phase and it actually seems that they are already in the spreading phase. In practice this means that in these regions restaurants and bars should stop serving drinks at 10pm and should close at 11pm," ministry permanent secretary Kirsi Varhila said at a press conference.

Establishments in the five regions will only be allowed to serve half of the maximum number of customers. "We are specifically aiming for physical distancing," Varhila added.

The senior ministry official said that government is expected to issue the regulation on Friday. Ministerial government counsellor, Ismo Tuominen, said that the regulation will take effect from midnight on the night of Saturday, 10 October.

Minister: Corona situation deteriorating in many areas

Meanwhile Family Affairs and Social Services Minister Krista Kiuru said that the coronavirus situation had deteriorated in many areas. She pointed out that decision-making power now lies mainly with regional authorities.

"No one wants a return to a state of emergency," she noted.

She added that new infection clusters had originated at restaurants and bars. She told reporters at the news conference that government will hold talks about the management of the current situation next week Wednesday and Thursday.

"There has been a great deal of public debate about a mask mandate. Our legislation currently does not allow for compulsory mask use," Kiuru said in response to a question about whether or not government will discuss a possible mask mandate.

The minister said that what makes the current stage of the epidemic worrying is that health officials have not been able to trace all infection chains.

Hospitality group wants answers

Meanwhile on Wednesday MaRa, the lobby group representing firms in the tourism and hospitality sector, accused the government of not offering legal justifications explaining why new restrictions are proportionate and necessary.

“Restaurants, coffee shops, train station restaurants and hotel breakfast buffets have invested significantly in self-monitoring, hygiene and the safety of workers and customers,” MaRa CEO Timo Lappi said in a statement.

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