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Monday’s papers: Novel coronavirus updates, asylum appeals, unusually warm weather

Finland's morning newspapers are dominated by developments linked to the novel coronavirus.

Tyttö ylittää tietä
Police this week will be keeping an extra sharp watch motorists at crosswalks. Image: Meeri Niinistö / Yle

In addition to newly confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Finland on Sunday, Monday's Helsingin Sanomat also reports that some children and staff at a school in Helsinki's Lauttasaari district have been place in quarantine.

Referring to a press release by city officials, the paper writes that two classes of third-graders and "fewer than 10" members of staff, altogether around 60 people at the Lauttasaari elementary school have been ordered to stay home and avoid contact with the public.

The school, however, has not been closed.

Turku's Turun Sanomat was among the papers reporting that Finland's Foreign Ministry on Sunday expanded its travel advisory urging Finns to avoid unnecessary travel to northern Italy to cover the whole of that country.

Kuopio's Savon Sanomat carries a STT news agency interview with Finland's Ambassador to Rome, Pia Rantala-Engberg, who said that at least as of Sunday, Finns travelling and living in Italy were not exhibiting signs of panic, but were unsure what was going on.

She stressed the importance of information services, and urged anyone travelling to Italy or other destinations to register travel details with the Foreign Ministry.

Travel details can be submitted, in English via the ministry's website.

President Sauli Niinistö late Sunday commented on the situation in a posting on his Facebook account.

Aamulehti notes that the President advised the public to take the novel coronavirus seriously and to give thought to avoiding travel. He also urged people to follow public health officials’ advice on washing hands and covering sneezes.

The president wrapped up his posting on a calming note, writing "Yes, we'll get through this."

Appeals court backlog

Jyäskylä's Keskisuomalainen reports that courts currently have a huge backlog of cases appealing rejected asylum and residence permit applications.

The paper reports that last year, appeals of this kind made up over half of the case load of the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland. It made rulings in 3080 cases in 2019, while a further 3,145 new cases were filed.

A similar situation was found in the Helsinki Administrative Court which had more than 4,000 appeals related to asylum and residence permit applications on its docket in 2019.

Keskisuomalainen writes that courts have hired new staff, although many are temporary, to help ease the backlog. Even so, rulings in these kinds of cases in administrative courts typically take 11-13 months. That has been trimmed to an average of 8 months in Helsinki, but in the Northern Finland Administrative Court the average is over 16 months.

Appeals in the Supreme Administrative Court now usually take 7 months before a decision is handed down.

Traffic safety watch

Police in Finland are carrying out a safety campaign this week focusing on motorists' observance of pedestrian crossings, the use of seat belts, and enforcement of the ban on the use of cell phones while driving.

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports police statistics showing that in recent years around 400 pedestrians are injured and 20 die annually in traffic accidents at zebra crossings. Over half of fatalities and a third of injuries are people over the age of 65.

Police Inspector Heikki Kallio reminded the paper's readers that pedestrians have right-of-way and that drivers are required to lower speeds when approaching crossings.

Police this week will also be on the alert for motorists using cell phones or engaged in any other activity that may distract them from safe driving.

Warm weather week

Helsinki's Iltalehti reports that Finland will likely see unseasonably warm weather this week, including temperatures Monday in Finnish Lapland as much as 5-6 degrees Celsius above normal for the time of year.

Even though temperatures are rising, the forecast is for mostly cloudy skies with few parts of the country getting any sun.

Rain will be mainly concentrated in the north on Monday, but showers are likely for most of the week in southern and central regions beginning on Tuesday. The weekend may bring sub-zero winter conditions once again.

Iltalehti includes several photos of early-awakening nature resulting from mild winter weather. One shows a viper already up and slithering about, as well as a shot of coltsfoot in bloom - a sight usually taken as the first sure sign of spring.

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