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Monday's papers: Outdoor safety, lessons from Sweden, youth gatherings

Finland's press looks at the issues of large crowds and outdoor safety as public life gradually resumes.


Ihmisiä istumassa Helsingin Esplanadin puistossa aurinkoisena lauantaipäivänä.
People sitting in the sun along the Esplanade in Helsinki. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

As Finland takes its first tentative steps towards a return to normality, Helsingin Sanomat asks how safe it will be outdoors as terraces reopen and people "rush to parks and picnic areas".

To answer the question, HS cites a peer-reviewed study by researchers in Japan which found that the risk of contracting coronavirus outdoors is nearly 20 times lower than the risk indoors.

This is because the particles which carry the virus do not spread as much in the open air as they do inside confined spaces, according to HS, and that people should avoid the "3 Cäs" as much as possible: closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings.

Tarja Sironen, an Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Helsinki, told HS that researchers’ understanding of how the virus is transmitted has become more exact as further information has been accumulated during the spring.

"In the open air, droplets continue to fall to the ground and aerosol particles dilute relatively quickly into the environment. Therefore it seems that, in the open air, the virus is very poorly transmitted," Sironen said.

HS also writes that certain types of outdoor spaces carry a greater risk of spreading the virus than others, and that geographical location is a factor as well.

"The risk of infection is different in different parts of Finland," virologist Olli Vapalahti from the University of Helsinki told HS "In areas where there have been few cases of the disease, slightly different rules can be applied."

Vapalahti added that poorly-ventilated small spaces will increase the risk of infection, as indoor air conditioning or ventilation can have a big impact on whether aerosol particles are left to rotate within the air space of a room.

"Shouting over music, dancing or heated conversation also increase the risk," Vapalahti warned.

"The bars should definitely close"

Tabloid Iltalehti spent Saturday night in Stockholm to gain an insight into how the lifting of restrictions in Finland might look across the course of the summer.

IL found very little physical distancing in evidence at the city’s Vitabergsparken public park, where people were "crammed" close together as they enjoyed a few drinks and the company of friends in the evening sun.

Despite over 4,000 deaths linked to coronavirus in Sweden, a figure significantly higher than any other Nordic nation, IL found broad support for the Swedish government’s coronavirus strategy among Stockholm’s revellers.

"I believe that Sweden has chosen the right path with regard to the coronavirus," city resident Johan Johnson told the tabloid. "Swedish society always properly follows recommendations made by the authorities. There is always room for improvement, but the authorities have taken care of the task really well."

However, not everyone IL spoke to was in full support of Sweden’s herd immunity strategy, with Zafira Engström criticising the approach championed by state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.

"Time has now shown that we should act like other countries. Elsewhere, there is a firm line on tackling the virus and we are taking this too lightly - people are dying here. The bars should definitely close right away," Engström told IL, before turning and walking into the bar.

School celebration leads to suspected murder attempt

A number of regional newspapers carry reports of graduation parties in cities across Finland on Saturday night, which attracted crowds of young people despite that restrictions on large gatherings were still in place.

Kuopio daily Savon Sanomat reports that hundreds of young people congregated in the Väinölänniemi area of the city to celebrate the end of the school year and the beginning of summer, but the evening ended with a stabbing incident that the police are now investigating as a suspected attempted murder.

The incident occurred at about 11.45 on Saturday night, and the victim was taken to a local hospital where his condition was described as not life threatening.

The suspected perpetrator escaped on foot but was located and arrested by police later in the night. He was described as an 18-year-old male.

Savon Sanomat added that police were not willing to reveal if the victim was a minor or not, or if the weapon used had yet been recovered.

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