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Monday's papers: Possible domestic travel restrictions, political impacts, spring coming on fast

Some Monday newspapers look at calls to limit movement in the country to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Poliisin eristämä alue
A Finnish police barrier tape marking a restricted area. Image: Yle/Henrietta Hassinen

Finland's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat poses the question of what possible travel restrictions within the country could mean in practice.

As the paper noted, Prime Minister Sanna Marin told Yle on Saturday that the government is ready to restrict movement from the southern Uusimaa region to the rest of the country, although she added then that the time has not yet come to implement such a measure.

The paper spoke to Tero Kurenmaa, who directs the police affairs division at the Ministry of the Interior who said that details of restrictions on movement would only come once the government makes a decision.

"Would the area affected be Uusimaa or somewhere else? One has to look at the development of the spread of the virus, and on the basis of the situation determine what measures are needed to effectively hinder the spread," Kurenmaa told Helsingin Sanomat.

If the order is given, police would control traffic in and out of any restricted region.

However, Kurenmaa pointed out that a travel ban would not stop deliveries of food or medicine or other goods.

Helsingin Sanomat adds that it is probable, in the case of limits on movement being imposed, that these would also apply to public transport.

Tero Kurenmaa noted that Finland doesn't really have any experience of restricting movement to draw upon. The closest parallel are the restrictions in place during visits by foreign heads of state, but those are very localised and limited in scope.

Lapland: Please stay away

Rovaniemi's Lapin Kansa reports that local government leaders in Lapland are concerned that the upcoming Easter holiday will still draw crowds to the region, and have appealed to the government for a decision ordering bars, night clubs, and other services that bring people into close contact to be closed.

The appeal was signed by municipal mayors and the Regional Council of Lapland.

Lapland County Governor Mika Riipi issued a statement Sunday saying that a decision to order the closure of such services would also enable businesses to apply for insurance benefits to cover at least some of their losses.

Local government leaders appealed to holiday-makers to delay any plans to visit Lapland until the autumn or next winter. They pointed out that basic healthcare capacity in Lapland is extremely limited and facilities are geared up to treat only those permanently resident there.

Few want stay-at-home order

A poll commissioned and published by the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat shows that a majority of Finns oppose the idea of the government issuing a general stay-at-home order.

The survey, carried out by the pollster Taloustutkimus, found that up to 76 percent of people questioned oppose a stay-at-home order, while only 11 percent think the government should issue one.

There was very little variation in responses along gender lines, but older people, those in the 65-79 year age group were the most opposed to the idea with 82 percent saying they do not want to see a a stay-at-home order.

The highest levels of support for a government order for people not to leave home except in special circumstances was seen in towns in Uusimaa region outside the Helsinki metropolitan area. The lowest level of backing was in the capital itself.

Political parties take a break

According to the Oulu-based newspaper Kaleva, political parties have decided to shift planned summer congresses until later in the year.

One unforeseen impact of the caution being exercised is that Prime Minister Sanna Marin will not be replacing Social Democratic leader Antti Rinne in the party's top spot any time soon.

The SDP was scheduled to take place in Tampere 12-14 June, bringing together some 500 delegates, plus media, caterers and organizational support staff. Although no formal decision has yet been made to postpone the congress, a party spokesperson told the paper there is a backup plan in the works, and it is assumed that it could take place in the autumn, at the earliest.

The Green Party and Swedish People's Party have already announced that congresses scheduled for May have been put off until September.

June congresses for representatives of the Centre Party and the National Coalition Party are expected to be rescheduled soon. A planned summer gathering of Finns Party representatives, set to take place in Rovaniemi has been put off until the end of September at the earliest.

Spring coming on

Judging by the exclamation point in its headline, the tabloid Iltalehti is excited about sunny skies and the prospects of warmer weather this week.

It reports that the forecast is for warmer weather nationwide, reaching +5C in southern and central areas on Monday, and +10C in the south by Friday.

However Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are likely to be windy.

The paper quotes FMI Meteorologist Antti Jylhä-Ollila as saying that spring is in the air even for residents of Finnish Lapland where the week's forecast is for daytime temperatures ranging between zero and +5C.

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