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Thursday’s papers: Talks on re-opening Finnish-Estonian border, back-to-school challenges, and drop in air passenger numbers

Thursday’s press includes a story on the possible re-opening of the Finnish-Estonian border.

One of the challenges of back-to-school will be social distancing during meal times. Image: Marko Väänänen / Yle

Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat (IS) leads with a story about the possibility of re-opening the Finnish-Estonian border. IS cites an interview with Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto that aired on Estonia’s public radio ERR on Wednesday regarding the matter.

In the interview, Haavisto said that the Finnish government would be discussing the option of re-opening the maritime border in talks with the Estonian government on Sunday.

Haavisto told ERR that opening the border would likely happen gradually, and that not all coronavirus-related restrictions would be lifted at once.

“It is possible that some restrictions would remain, for example on protective equipment and passenger numbers, and on how full ferries (travelling between Finland and Estonia) could be. And it may be that commuters could travel, but not tourists,” he said. “However, these are all issues that have not yet been decided,” he stressed.

“We understand that Finland and Estonia are very close and many Estonians work in Finland and many Finns have cottages in Estonia and are used to spending their holidays there. If the health situation allows for it, these restrictions (on travel) would be eased first,” said Haavisto.

Social distancing challenges in mega-schools

Tabloid Iltalehti reports on the challenges for large schools in the wake of the Finnish government's decision on Wednesday night to reopen schools in two weeks time.

In Hämeenlinna, about 100 kilometres from Helsinki, at the district’s largest primary school, Seminaari, principal Pasi Rangell foresees big problems when it comes to maintaining social distancing when the school re-opens.

The school has 750 students.

“Recesses and lunch times will cause the largest problems,” said Rangell, in an interview with the paper.

The Seminaari school serves lunch hour in two different canteens. But trying to maintain social distancing with such a large number of students will be difficult, Rangell tells the paper. One solution would be to eat lunch in classrooms, but transporting food back and forth from the canteen to classroom would cause its own problems.

Another option is to organise lunch time with tight schedules and seating arrangements.

“The problem there is that especially younger students take a longer time to eat,” says Rangell.

Other creative solutions would be to move teaching outdoors, Rangell told the newspaper.

If that were the case, “good weather would be on the wish list,” Rangell said.

Sharp decline in passenger numbers

Main Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat (HS) reports on the drastic decline of air travellers at Finnish airports during March on the heels of the coronavirus outbreak.

The number of passengers at Finnish airports in March 2020 was 56 percent less than during the previous year’s March, according to figures released on Thursday by Statistics Finland.

Fewer than one million passengers flew through Finnish airports in March 2020, the majority of whom – 700,000 – flew through Helsinki Airport.

The number of passengers at Helsinki Airport decreased slightly more than at other Finnish airports, where the decrease year-on-year was 57 percent.

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