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PM Marin: Emergency measures can be rolled back before end of June

The cabinet meets on Monday to review the need for the Emergency Powers Act, which is in force until the end of June.

Pääministeri Sanna Marin STT:n haastattelussa pääministerin virka-asunnolla Kesärannassa Helsingissä 25. toukokuuta.
File photo. Prime Minister Sanna Marin at her official residence, Kesäranta in May. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

The Emergency Powers Act invoked to deal with the novel coronavirus epidemic in Finland will remain in force until the end of June, but the statute could be lifted before then, according to Prime Minister Sanna Marin.

The Prime Minister said that the government will meet on Monday to consider whether or not to extend the emergency measures invoked by the statute to curb the spread of novel coronavirus in Finland.

"The state of emergency and the clauses of the Emergency Powers Act can only remain in force for reasons that are absolutely necessary. If experts say tomorrow that this is not the case, then government will revoke them before the end of June," Marin said during a Prime Minister’s question time interview on Radio Suomi on Sunday afternoon.

Marin said that the government will hear experts’ assessments of the epidemic as well as legal opinions on whether or there is a case to extend the application of the Emergency Powers Act.

So far the government has based its decision to invoke the Act and its related restrictions on the need to protect the population and to safeguard fundamental and human rights. It also aimed to ensure that the social and health care system could deal with the crisis.

According to Marin, the invocation of the statute in March was based on the recognition that normal legislation lacked the tools needed to control the epidemic. She said that the government wants to ensure that it would not need to invoke the legislation in the event of a second wave of the epidemic.

"Along the way we have tabled proposals in parliament to introduce the tools we would have needed in [existing] legislation. During the summer we intend to bring a bill to parliament to allow us to prepare for a possible second wave," she added.

On Monday the government will also discuss the option of limiting audience sizes beyond August as well as rules restricting visits at senior care homes.

PM: Gov't should have communicated restrictions better

During the spring the government came under fire for unclear messaging about whether or not restrictions were recommendations or rules based on law. For example, people always had the right to leave the country, although many had the idea that Finnish citizens and permanent residents could not leave the country when border restrictions were imposed in March.

Marin admitted that the government’s communication with regard to the border closure was ambiguous and that while the issue was reported by media too simplistically, the administration was also to blame.

"The government should have been more precise in this case so that it was clear to everyone what was a recommendation and what was a duty required by law," she said.

The PM said that the government is already preparing for budget talks due to take place in August, when so-called "adjustment measures" meaning possible tax hikes and spending cuts may also be discussed. However she added that the main emphasis will be on reviving the economy.

"The economy needs to be revived in a sustainable way from the perspective of the environment. First growth, then structural reforms and third adjustment measures, which will very likely be modified as well," she said.

Marin noted that an additional 100 euros monthly promised to pensioners as part of the Social Democratic Party’s election campaign last year has not yet been implemented.

"The government programme says that it will be possible to return to this in a strengthening economic situation. It is difficult to see how it will be possible to find this kind of allocation during the current government term," she concluded.

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