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Thursday's papers: Covid passports, MP benefits, parking cuts and travel strike

A Covid passport scheme could be on the way next month, but it may not be around for long.

National daily Helsingin Sanomat follows up a Tuesday report on Covid passports with more detail on the proposed scheme.

According to the paper, the government plans to introduce the passport scheme at the beginning of October. It would apply to all Finnish residents over the age of 12.

A draft government bill seen by HS says the passport scheme would use the same EU Covid-19 certificate currently in use for international travel. The certificate shows proof of vaccination status, negative Covid test result or recent recovery from the virus.

"A coronavirus pass could be required at restaurants, nightclubs and public events, gyms and other indoor sports or exercise facilities, swimming pools and spas, dance halls and group recreational facilities, amusement and theme parks, indoor zoos, indoor playgrounds and playgrounds, museums, exhibition halls and other similar cultural facilities, among others," the draft legislation states, according to HS.

Parliament would need to vote on the bill before it comes into force, meaning its introduction could be delayed from early October.

HS also reports that the Covid passport scheme could be short-lived, as the government currently intends to lift all coronavirus restrictions once 80 percent of over-12s are fully vaccinated against the virus. That milestone could be reached in late October.

The British government recently performed a U-turn on introducing Covid passports after opposition from Conservative MPs, while last week Denmark, an early adopter of the passes, scrapped its scheme altogether.

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Fewer ex-MPs claiming earnings adjustment allowance

Tabloid Iltalehti reports that the number of former MPs claiming adjustment allowances has fallen to a record low after a reform in 2019 that saw the conditions of the payments tightened.

In August 2019 there were 57 ex-lawmakers claiming the payments. That number fell to just 26 this year, and is likely to further decline to 16 next year, Iltalehti writes.

The adjustment allowance is now paid to former MPs for up to three years after they leave office. After reforms in 2019, it takes into account their earnings and capital income after they stand down or fail to be re-elected.

All 16 of the former MPs who will still claim the payments next year are aged 59 or older, and are eligible to receive the adjustment allowance until they reach retirement age at 65.

The new allowance replaced the previous adjustment pension, which was paid to ex-MPs from the time their parliamentary career ended until they reached 65. This led to situations where many were paid unconditional unemployment benefits for long periods, Iltalehti says.

The old system did not take capital earnings into account, the tabloid writes, meaning some wealthy ex-MPs were able to claim the adjustment pension while receiving significant sums from other passive income sources.

Tampere cuts parking

New residential buildings in Tampere will have fewer parking spaces than before, according to Pirkanmaa local Aamulehti.

The paper reports that the city programme of new mayor Anna-Kaisa Ikonen (NCP) will see the statutory number of parking spaces reduced for new buildings in the city centre and along public transport routes, as well as for student and public housing.

This means a new apartment block in Tampere's city centre will have 31 parking spaces for a building of some 4,400 square metres, Aamulehti writes.

Kirsi Koski, CEO of Tampere student housing foundation TOAS, told the paper she welcomed the move, saying only half of TOAS-built parking spaces were used by students.

"When parking spaces are obligatory and compulsory, many car-free residents have to pay the cost of building them as part of their rent," she said.

Helsinki transport strike

Swedish-language Hufvudstadsbladet is among the papers following a strike by tram and metro drivers in Helsinki taking place on Thursday and Friday.

The drivers say that a restructuring scheme planned by transport authority HKL does not take into account agreements between city management and unions made earlier this year.

Commuter Petra Björk told HBL that while the strike was "annoying," she understood the reasons behind it.

"People must be able to keep their jobs," she told the paper while on her way to Matinkylä in Espoo.

While the strike action affects metro and tram services in Helsinki, trains and buses are still running.

"I think the bus will take me all the way, unlike the metro. That's good, at least," Björk told HBL.

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