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Thursday's papers: Vaccine strategies, career change, airport expansion

Papers report that officials who are to work the polls in April's local elections may move to the front of the queue.

Terminaali 2 Helsinki-Vantaan lentoasemalla koronapandemian aikana.
Helsinki-Vantaa airport saw 92 percent fewer passengers in January than during the same month of 2020. Image: Jani Saikko / Yle

The Swedish language newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet reports on government talks on the next steps being planned to deal with the coronavirus epidemic.

The paper writes that a decision is expected no later than Friday on requesting parliament to approve the implementation of four sections of the Emergency Powers Act. Two of these deal with special powers to reorganise healthcare, one with the crisis decision-making process, and one specifies that it is the government - not regional authorities - that should communicate decisions on measures to various authorities and to the public.

Hufvudstadsbladet also reports that government talks on Wednesday took up the possibility of vaccinating election officials to ensure that local elections can held on schedule next month. This presupposes a government decision to adjust the vaccination strategy, and the government is prepared to take that decision if it decides that the election will in fact be held on 18 April.

The tabloid Iltalehti quotes the chair of the THL's National Advisory Committee on Vaccines, Ville Peltola, as saying that Finland has been looking at a shift to prioritising areas with the highest infection rates. However, for the time being, the vaccination schedule is still targeting social and health care personnel, the elderly and at-risk groups.

Chinese vaccine?

Ilta-Sanomat notes that even though there are continuing delays in receiving sufficient supplies of vaccine, Finland has few alternatives as it is bound by the EU's procurement mechanism. This means that bilateral agreements may not be concluded for vaccinations for which the EU has already contracted.

However, the former director of the University of Tampere's Vaccine Research Center, Timo Vesikari, told the paper that Finland could buy a vaccine that the EU is not procuring.

Such vaccines include Russia's Sputnik V and, China's Sinovac. Vesikari says both vaccines have been shown to be effective.

But contracting for either, he says, is first and foremost a matter of politics.

"Russia is too politically sensitive for Finland. Finland's political leadership would not break ranks with the EU and buy Sputnik from Russia while the EU has sanctions in place. Instead, China could be politically easier for the EU and for Finland," Vesikari pointed out.

Vesikari says China has already supplied Sinovac to Turkey, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates. He believes that Finland would have a good chance, with even just a matter of weeks, to get a sufficient amount of vaccine from China. As a western trading partner this would be attractive to China, as well.

"China would seem more of a commercial and less political option, although of course China uses vaccine supplies as a soft policy tool," Vesikari noted.

Mika Rämet, the current director of the Vaccine Research Centre, told Ilta-Sanomat that he believes the Chinese vaccine will become a significant part of global coronavirus control. However, he does not see it as part of Finland's vaccine arsenal.

"As the vaccine is not yet in the European Medicines Agency approval process, it will not reach market quickly enough," Rämet said.

Career change advice

Jyväskylä's Keskisuomalainen tells its readers who may be considering a career change about free advisory services available from TE employment offices.

Terhi Saavalainen, a psychologist at TE Services in Central Finland, told the paper that layoffs brought about by the epidemic have clearly increased interest in career change.

"During layoffs, people have increasing thoughts about the uncertainty in their field or have been unable to find another job. Some people also decide to switch fields if they have a dream of what they really want to do," she says.

Career guidance is provided by psychologists in TE services. One does not have to be a job seeker to receive the service.

"We offer help to everyone, and we have no age limit. Anyone who feels that their own careers or studies are not progressing can contact us for a discussion with a professional," Saavalainen explains.

In practice, under the constraints imposed by the epidemic, the advisory service consists of an initial one to three telephone or video consultations, the aim of which is to look at different career options.

"If you are going to study a new field, it is important to make sure that it does not complicate your own financial situation, family affairs or relationships. Having done the groundwork, conversations with psychologist can help you move forward," Saavalainen says.

Keskisuomalainen writes that anyone considering a career change can find more information on the national TE Services website, as well as a form to sign up for a career guidance consultation.

Airport expansion

Thursday's Helsingin Sanomat carries a feature item on the expansion work currently underway at Helsinki-Vantaa airport.

Work which began in 2019 for a 40,000-square metre expansion of Terminal 2 is on schedule, it writes, and should be completed by the end of the year.

The technical director of airport operator Finavia, Henri Hansson, believes that air travel will bounce back once restrictions are lifted.

"Business travel is likely to be reduced by the increase in teleworking. However, it is assumed that commuter flights will return to pre-epidemic levels in the coming years, as the growth trend in air travel has not disappeared. People need to see each other, even if they are used to remote meetings," he says.

When Finavia's one billion euro investment programme began, Helsinki-Vantaa's passenger numbers were growing by more than 10 percent annually. In January this year, the airport saw 92 percent fewer passengers than one year ago.

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