Finland is not planning to impose a mandatory mask ruling, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) told reporters ahead of a government discussion on the coronavirus situation on Wednesday evening.
We are not planning to force people to wear a mask or, for example, to penalise those who do not use a mask,” Marin said.
Marin pointed out that international experiences of strict mask laws have shown that a mask mandate alone cannot improve the situation. She emphasised on the importance of avoiding social contacts and following the latest coronavirus recommendations.
Marin said she considered the current corona situation in Finland to be very serious.
“Certainly a situation like this could have been avoided if more had been done in the past,” the Prime Minister said.
“Situation doesn’t call for a state of emergency”
During Wednesday’s session, the government will among other matters, review the coronavirus situation and discuss if there there is a need to invoke the Emergency Powers Act as it did during spring.
According to Marin, the situation doesn’t seem to call for a state of emergency.
"I don't see that we're in that situation now. The restrictive measures announced in the capital region are substantial. I believe that these measures will go a long way and reduce the number of cases," the PM said.
However, Marin reiterated that the situation could deteriorate suddenly and that the government should be prepared for all options in advance.
According to Marin, introducing a state of emergency would depend on several different factors and an overall assessment, and not just on the number of infections.
The Emergency Powers Act could for example be used to ask social and health care workers to take on certain types of work or allow the government to impose restrictions on movement.
Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) told reporters that a state of emergency could be invoked only once all regional measures have been taken.
"The primary measures are the ones we are doing right now. Regionally, we have to succeed," Kiuru said.
Marin and Kiuru will announce the contents of the discussion at a press conference on Thursday morning.
Minister Saarikko: "We live in critical days"
Everything ultimately depends on the behaviour of Finns, Minister of Science and Culture Annika Saarikko (Centre) told reporters ahead of the discussion.
"We live in critical days. It is not enough for us to discuss restrictive measures or emergency preparedness. Everything is solved by the behaviour and willingness of Finns to follow these restrictions and to adhere to calls and recommendations," Saarikko said.
According to Saarikko, invoking the Emergency Powers Act is a last resort and other measures can be taken before that.
Opposition leaders were of a similar view.
Leader of the National Coalition Party Petteri Orpo said introducing the emergency law is a last resort, but it must definitely be included in the range of measures if the situation worsens.
Chair of the Christian Democrats Sari Essayah added that a state of emergency could be partially invoked, with a special emphasis on healthcare clauses.
Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho said it is the government in power that has the resources at its disposal to correctly assess the situation and take the right action and that the opposition does not have such resources.
Travel measures not on the agenda
The Prime Minister revealed that travel restrictions will not be discussed during Wednesday’s session. However, the government is in the process of preparing new legislation to ensure health security in border traffic.
"This is a major and tricky matter. Personally, I would like a simple and easy model based on testing," she said.
According to Marin, testing in border security will play a key role.
"Rapid tests at borders could be a measure," Marin added.