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PM Marin: 'Please don't go out, even if places are open'

The prime minister called on people to limit social contact as the legal debate over emergency powers continues.

Pääminiseri Sanna Marin
Sanna Marin told Yle's A-Studio that legislation forcing leisure facilities to close should be brought to parliament. Image: Seppo Ahava / Yle

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) has called on people to avoid going to indoor leisure facilities, even though those facilities are still open.

"I make this appeal for three weeks. Even if the facilities were open, I wouldn't go to places where I'd meet other people. We must avoid all social contact," Marin told Yle's A-Studio on Tuesday.

The government's plan is to introduce a three-week shutdown in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus, although Speaker of Parliament Anu Vehviläinen (Cen) has said she does not believe proposals that would force the closure of bars and restaurants can be passed into law by Monday 8 March, the planned start date for the shutdown.

797 new cases of coronavirus were reported in Finland on Wednesday 3 March, the highest number since the pandemic began.

"We are taking measures to keep the coronavirus situation under control. However, we also want to do the right thing legally, and that is why things are now being clarified before any legal clauses are put in place," Marin told Yle.

Legal wrangling over restrictions

The prime minister's plea comes after the health ministry and the Southern Finland Avi disagreed over forcing gyms and other indoor leisure facilities in Helsinki and some Uusimaa municipalities to close.

Leisure facilities in the capital were initially closed on 1 March before being reopened on Tuesday with a 10-person capacity limit imposed.

"The situation is serious. We have a competent authority, the Regional Administration of Southern Finland (Avi), which has interpreted the section on the closure of premises differently," Marin said.

"The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (STM) is now assessing whether the law should be clarified. My own position is that a detailed proposal should be submitted to parliament," she added.

National Coalition Party chair Petteri Orpo on Tuesday demanded that parliament debate any introduction of emergency powers.

"The government operates on the basis of a parliamentary mandate. All emergency powers must be brought before parliament. There is an urgent need to clarify this issue," Orpo wrote on Twitter.

The government is scheduled to discuss the implementation of tighter coronavirus restrictions – including a potential curfew that could involve restrictions on movement in certain areas or at certain times – later on Wednesday.

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