The S-Group retail chain has reported residents of the Nihtisilta asylum seeker reception centre to police, immigration and public health authorities for allegedly violating a quarantine order.
The reception centre has reported 101 novel coronavirus cases and has been placed under quarantine since 30 April, with the period of isolation due to end on 15 May.
However there have been reports that residents of the centre were seen at Espoo's Sello shopping centre as well as an S-market grocery in Nihtisilta.
Suspected contagious customers turned away
The first case of the alleged quarantine violation was detected at the customer-owner service point at the Sello shopping centre, S-Group risk management chief Mikko Koskinen said.
"While reviewing personal data at the customer owner service point it came up that the customer is from the reception centre," he noted.
Because S-Group staff were aware of the reception centre's quarantine order, they did not serve the customer and informed authorities, Koskinen noted.
"We were in contact with the municipal infectious diseases doctor, the Länsi-Uusimaa police and the Finnish Immigration Service," he added.
Koskinen said that persons believed to be reception centre residents were also seen at the Nihtisilta S-market supermarket. However there was no independent confirmation of their identity.
Koskinen said that S-Group staff are aware that they should not serve people placed in quarantine and that such customers should be asked to return to quarantine or to areas where they are permitted to move about.
"Challenges enforcing quarantine"
Business director Suvi Salonen of Luoma, the private company that runs the Nihtisilta reception centre, said that there have been challenges enforcing the quarantine.
"Some people have no symptoms and it is difficult for them to understand why they are in quarantine," she added.
The reception centre said it has stepped up work on providing guidance for residents, who have been told clearly why they need to follow quarantine guidelines.
Salonen said that the centre has had discussions with police and the local infectious diseases unit about quarantine breakers, but no action has been taken for the moment.
All of the residents of the Nihtisilta reception centre are adults, and about 10 of them are believed to have violated the quarantine, mostly middle-aged men.
Police: Quarantine violations a matter for health officials
Residents are allowed to move about outdoors in the vicinity of the centre but each individual is responsible for ensuring that the follow the rules. Additionally, the centre does not have the power to prevent them from leaving the area.
Läsi-Uusimaa police inspector Hannu Väänänen said that the department had discussed the issue with S-Group and local health officials. He said that police have advised S-Group to contact public health authorities.
He stressed that quarantine matters are primarily the responsibility of public health officials.
"The first contact [should be] to the health authorities that issued the [quarantine] order, because it concerns the health status of individuals," he added.