Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) responded to critics on Thursday, saying that Finland has not been overly hasty in lifting restrictions rolled out to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Marin made her comments on the issue at a press conference presenting her Social Democratic Party's regional election programme.
"We have not opened up society too early. We still have some restrictions in place, and when we have 80 percent vaccination coverage, hopefully this month, we will lift those [remaining] restrictions," she said, referring to the government's goal for the population aged 12 and over.
Restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the virus were originally intended to be gradually relaxed once vaccination coverage reached 80 percent of 12-and-overs, but the majority of remaining measures — such as those on bars and restaurants as well as on public events — were lifted last week.
On Wednesday, the Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Kirsi Varhila, told Yle that she believes coronavirus restrictions in Finland were lifted too soon.
She presented her view as figures published by public health agency THL showed the number of people being treated in hospitals for the virus had risen from 89 two weeks ago to 112 on Wednesday.
Furthermore, the director of the THL's Department for Health Security, Mika Salminen, has voiced the same concern, saying on Thursday morning that the highest risk situations in social settings such as bars and nightclubs still pose a danger of spreading infections, especially for the unvaccinated.
PM: Target will be reached soon
PM Marin appealed on Thursday to people who have not yet had a second jab, for one reason or another, to get fully vaccinated.
"I would send a clear message to people that it is a responsible act to get vaccinated, to protect themselves, to protect our fellow human beings and society as a whole," she stated.
According to Marin, Finland cannot afford to have the strain on healthcare services that would be the result of a low vaccination rate.
She went on to point out that the government is implementing its hybrid strategy and lifting restrictions accordingly as it progresses. However, new restrictions may have to be introduced regionally if the situation so requires.
Vaccination coverage in Finland is currently at the low end of the EU average. According to Marin, this has been affected by the long interval between the administration of the first and second doses of the vaccine.
"It helps to explain why we are not yet at 80 percent for two doses. But I would think that in a few weeks we will reach it," she said. "I hope we can get rid of all the restrictions within a few weeks."