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Monday's papers: Regional incidence decline, Covid deniers, summer for real?

Among items in the morning press, papers reports on low levels of infection in five Finnish regions, and a gathering of Covid deniers in Tampere.

Kesämökki veden äärellä.
This week's weather forecast has raised hopes of the start of summer. Image: AOP

The tabloid Iltalehti reports that based on Sunday's figures from the public health institute THL, the coronavirus incidence rate has now fallen below 10 in five regions of Finland.

The incidence rate is the number of cases recorded during the previous 14 days per 100,000 residents.

The national incidence rate on Sunday was 52.7, with the highest level recorded in Päijät-Häme (108.7). The incidence rate was also high in Southwest Finland (94) and in the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district (85.2).

The incidence rate was under 10 in the hospital districts of Central Finland, North Savo, South Savo, Lapland, and Central Ostrobothnia.

The paper also combines figures first and second jabs to report that over two million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been given to the public in Finland. Over 1.9 million have had their first dose, and more than 200,000 have had a second injection. That translates as 34.9 percent of the population having received the first dose, and 3.8 percent their second.

Aid to business

Jyväskylä's Keskisuomalainen was among the papers reporting over the weekend that Finnish Lapland tops the table in the level of government-provided support for businesses dealing with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

A third round of applications for financial aid is currently underway. In total, some 340 million euros has been provided so far.

According to figures published by the State Treasury, businesses in Lapland, Uusimaa and the Åland Islands have benefited the most.

Approximately 19.2 million euros of the support has been paid to Lapland, which works out at 108 euros per resident, while for most provinces the corresponding figure is around 30.

Only Uusimaa, which is home to large number of major companies, passed Lapland, receiving 110 euros per inhabitant.

In the case of Lapland, the large amount of support can be explained by the importance of the tourism sector to the region's economy.

Catering and accommodation service companies have been particularly hard hit by coronavirus restrictions and have also received the largest portion of state aid. The direct financial support being provided to companies does not have to be repaid to the state.

Keskisuomalainen notes that the lowest level of financial support in relation to the population has been paid out in North Karelia, where companies have received 20 euros per inhabitant.

In total, the entire region of North Karelia, with a population of over 162,000, has so far received less state financial aid that has the Lapland municipality of Kittilä, a ski resort with a permanent population of just 6,400.

Covid deniers gathering

Tampere's Aamulehti reports that there was a gathering of close to 100 people in that city on Saturday who came together in their shared denial of the existence of the coronavirus pandemic.

The paper says that judging from images shared on social media platforms, participants did not observe social distancing or wear masks at the event.

The day's programme, which Aamulehti also sourced from social media, lasted a full day and included a well-known conspiracy theorist of the Finnish QAnon movement, the former editor-in-chief of an anti-immigration and conspiracy website, and Mikael Kivivuori, a doctor from Rauma who was recently fired from his private helathcare-sector job for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.

Aamulehti writes that it was unable to determine who organised the event and so was unable to reach an organiser for comment. The premises were hired from a local choral group which was unaware of the nature of the gathering in advance.

Public gatherings in Tampere are still restricted to no more than 10 people. Violations may be subject to fines. Police Inspector Pasi Nieminen told Aamulehti that police will look into possible violations at the gathering.

"The police consider such activities as irresponsible and childish. The fact is that people are still dying from the coronavirus," Nieminen said.

Foreigners in the forest

The farmers' union paper Maaseuden Tulevaisuus writes that while there are no solid statistics available, it is estimated that up to half of the people harvesting and managing Finland's forests these days are foreigners, many subcontracted by large Finnish firms.

According to the paper, the number has increased sharply over the past 5-7 years.

Heikki Savolainen of the state-owned forest management group Metsähallitus told Maaseuden Tulevaisuus that about half of the company's on-site work is handled by foreign employees, some who work for Finnish companies, and some employed by foreign companies.

In Lapland, the majority of workers in forestry are still Finns, but in the south, more and more work is being done by workers from Estonia, other Baltic countries, Russia, Ukraine and some other Eastern European countries, according to the Confederation of Finnish Industry.

In a review of the need foreign seasonal workers the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry estimated last spring that Finland would need about 2,000 in the forestry sector.

Is it summer yet?

Weather forecasts project sunny skies and temperatures over 20C in some parts of Finland starting on Tuesday.

The Helsinki daily Helsingin Sanomat asks whether this will actually mark the start of summer.

As the paper points out, meteorologists often refer to the thermal summer. This starts when the average daily temperature is consistently above 10C.

Finland covers a lot of territory on a north-south axis, and summer does not reach all corners of the country at the same time. Last year, the thermal summer began in the southernmost parts of the country on 21 May and in the northernmost parts of Lapland on 12 June.

In 2018 and 2019, the thermal summer in Kilpisjärvi, Lapland, didn't arrive until July, while in Ilomantsi, North Karelia, the summer started a couple of months earlier, on 10 May.

Last year, the thermal summer began in Helsinki on 19 April.

Finnish Meteorological Institute Ville Siiskonen declined to say whether or not this week's weather will mark the start of the thermal summer, although he did point out that statistically, mid-May is the time when summer usually arrives in southern Finland.

“It’s still hard to say if the incoming warm air mass at the beginning of the thermal summer. But statistically, the thermal summer in the south can begin at these times of the year, in mid-May. ”

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