Friday morning commuters in Helsinki reacted positively to a recommendation to wear masks on public transport, following the Institute for Health and Welfare’s (THL) announcement on Thursday that face masks should be worn in situations where social distancing is not possible..
Helsinki Regional Transport Authority (HSL) said it does not intend to monitor passengers' use of masks on any of its services as the wearing of the protective devices is only recommended and not mandatory, meaning that use of public transport in the city without a mask is permitted.
However, both HSL and Finland’s state railway firm VR strongly recommend the use of masks, but called on passengers to refrain from commenting to non-wearers as the use of a mask is not possible for everyone, for example individuals with medical conditions.
On Friday morning, VR organised a raffle at Helsinki central railway station, where it distributed a total of 10,000 masks to commuters.
"It was received very positively. It's been a pleasure to share these, and they have been a really popular product," VR’s Minna Kamppi-Lehtonen, who was distributing masks at Helsinki Central Railway Station on Friday morning, told Yle.
The wearing of masks is not mandatory on the firm's trains either, and people will be permitted to travel without one.
HSL said it has no plans to distribute masks to passengers.
"Very positively received"
Commuter Hanna Tuulonen told Yle that masks were very visible on public transport and in the street on Friday morning, especially on the faces of young people.
Estimates on the number of people wearing masks differed greatly however, with some people telling Yle it was about one-in-three, while others guessed about one-in-ten.
VR's Chief Operating Officer Jaakko Rantala said he hoped that passengers would follow the mask recommendation, but that those without a mask should not be criticised.
"Masks have been visible on trains to varying degrees. However, my own assessment is that as the week has progressed, the number of masks has increased," Rantala said, adding that he hoped passengers would behave responsibly and start wearing masks.
Company staff who work on the trains, like conductors and restaurant personnel, will also begin wearing masks after a few days of transition, according to the company.