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Thursday's papers: Gov't popularity, northern floods, duck rescue

Morning papers report a fresh poll showing a record high approval rating for Sanna Marin's government.

Tulvaihmettelijöitä Lainaanrannassa
Locals have seen waters rising fast in Rovaniemi this week. Image: Timo Metsäjoki / Yle

The Helsinki tabloid Iltalehti reports on a voter survey by the pollster Kantar TNS showing the highest approval rating of any government since voter approval polling in Finland began back in 1991.

According to the results of the survey, over two-thirds (69%) of Finns say that the five-party coalition headed by Social Democratic PM Sanna Marin has done its job at least "rather well". Fewer than a quarter (24%) took the opposite position, saying that at best it has done "rather poorly".

The poll shows that Swedish People's Party voters, in particular, are pleased with the government with 92 percent giving it a high approval rating, followed closely by SDP supporters at 91 percent, Left Alliance backers at 87 percent and Centre Party voters at 84 percent.

Opposition party supporters gave lower approval marks, but a significant majority of National Coalition Party voters, 62 percent said they think the government has been doing a good job. Just under a third of Finns Party backers agreed.

According to a Kantar TNS release accompanying the results, this is overwhelmingly the highest approval rating ever recorded. Up to now, the best showing in this type of survey was the 47-percent rating recorded for Paavo Lipposen's second government in 2001.

Iltalehti says that the handling of the coronavirus epidemic has been a boost to government popularity.

The poll, carried out in early May surveyed 1,248 people between the ages of 15-74 in mainland Finland. The margin of error is +/- 2.8 percentage points.

Floods in the north

Helsinki's other main tabloid, Ilta-Sanomat carries a feature report on flooding in Lapland, quoting a photographer in Rovaniemi as saying that parts of the city look like a "war zone".

Rivers in Lapland are overflowing their banks, spilling flood waters into fields, forests and residential areas.

Photographer Ville Honkonen told the paper there are massive efforts under way in Rovaniemi to staunch flood waters with sandbags.

Officials say that the volume of water in Lapland's streams and rivers is rising fast as warmer weather melts the winter's heavy snow cover in the region.

The head of Lapland's rescue services, Markus Aarto, told the Ilta-Sanomat that as of Wednesday preparations to deal with flooding in Rovaniemi were still incomplete. The city had constructed barriers to protect public buildings, but most private home owners had put off action too late.

"I haven't seen very many houses completely shut off [from flooding]. Home owners are still waiting to see if they will get flooded. They should be throwing themselves into it," said Aarto.

Not only in Lapland, but also in parts of North Ostobothnia and Kuusamo, some roads have been closed due to flooding.

The Rovaniemi daily Lapin Kansa is publishing a running blog on the floods, including the latest situation reports and photos.

Summer returnees

The nation's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat reports that many Finnish citizens living abroad would like to come to Finland to spend their summer holidays.

As the paper points out, this is their right. Even under the current exceptional circumstances, they can return to the country, no matter where they live, despite Foreign Ministry guidelines advising against non-essential travel .

Those guidelines also include a two-week voluntary period of quarantine upon arrival. In effect, this means staying in a residence for 14 days except for work or some other unavoidable reason.

But, as Helsingin Sanomat points out, this quarantine period is not monitored and there are no sanctions for violating it.

The paper took up some of the most common questions from Finnish citizens abroad hoping to make a summer visit.

Among those are whether or not a non-Finnish spouse is permitted to enter the country at this time.

Helsingin Sanomat explains that citizens can be accompanied by a spouse and dependent, minor children, even if they do not hold Finnish citizenship.

Other non-Finnish citizens, who are not residents of Finland, can cross the border for essential travel. For those arriving from within the Schengen area, examples of acceptable reasons include work, study, meetings with close relatives, or to attend family affairs such as weddings and funerals.

The paper quotes Border Guard Acting Deputy Commander Valtteri Viitala as saying that in practice border guards accept the validity of a traveller’s reason to enter as long as travel documents are in order.

Airlines have been instructed to check with travellers who do not have a Finnish passport about their reason for entry. Finnair's media relations director, Päivyt Tallqvist, told the paper that a verbal explanation is sufficient.

At present, it looks likely that the current tighter border controls will continue in place until 14 June.

To the rescue

We have all probably seen stories of the fire department rescuing a cat from a tree, but this morning's Savon Sanomat goes one better with a report of fire fighters in the city of Kuopio called out to rescue ducks from a pond.

In this case, a mama duck nested near a pond at the bottom of a large pit in an abandoned rail yard. Once her ducklings hatched, it turned out that the sides were too steep for the little ones to get out.

Called to the scene, fire fighters built a ramp so that the five little ones could waddle up to freedom.

The paper reports that local residents who were at the scene said that apparently the same duck had nested in the same spot in previous years and passers-by had to help her get her brood up and out.

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