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Restaurants, nightclubs may face new opening hour restrictions

Social services minister Krista Kiuru says the government will discuss new restaurant restrictions on Tuesday.

Ministerit Maria Ohisalo, Krista Kiuru ja Li Andersson eduskunnan kyselytunnilla Helsingissä
Krista Kiuru (SDP) is one of two cabinet members leading the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

The government plans to reimpose restrictions on restaurant and nightclub opening hours. Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) says the cabinet will consider a proposal on opening hours during government negotiations on Tuesday.

Yle has learned that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will propose that nightclub opening hours be shortened throughout the country.

The ministry will also call for detailed regional measures for areas where the epidemic situation is now worsening rapidly, including much of southern and central Finland.

“The corona situation is deteriorating. In light of these numbers, we’re preparing both regional and national measures. The main emphasis is on regional restrictions, but in regard to restaurants we plan to discuss in the cabinet how the current regulations will be changed,” Kiuru told Yle.

Kiuru pointed out that the present restaurant restrictions were set during a calm period of the epidemic, but that Finland is now moving back into an acceleration phase.

“In this phase, these current restrictions are no longer sufficient. We’re preparing for stricter restrictions on opening hours,” Kiuru told Yle.

"Many infection clusters" driven by restaurants

Kiuru says she does not at this point plan to call for a complete closure of restaurants or nightclubs, but adds that that should be within the range of options if the epidemic accelerates during the next month.

Commercial broadcaster MTV first reported on plans to tighten restaurant hours on Friday evening.

Kiuru said that restaurants, bars and clubs that are open late have been a factor in the spread of Covid-19 infections.

“We’ve had many infection clusters around Finland in which restaurants have played a role. On the other hand, I’d also say that restaurants have been very committed to the existing restrictions throughout the summer,” Kiuru said.

Frequent changes since April

The current restrictions expire at the end of September. According to these minimal rules, each customer must be guaranteed a seat and restaurants must ensure proper hygiene.

Tougher rules on opening and serving hours as well as customer capacities were lifted on 13 July. From early April to the beginning of June, restaurants were only allowed to sell food for takeaway.

When restaurants reopened in June, they were ordered to close by 11pm. From late June to mid-July, they were permitted to stay open until 2am.

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