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Tuesday's papers: A different Christmas, hospital staffing, second-hand goods

The coronavirus epidemic is already affecting Christmas season traditions, write some of Finland's morning newspapers today.

Hoitaja T-sairaalan päivystyksessä, TYKS Akuutissa, Turussa.
A nurse in Turku. Hospitals are not expecting to be critically short of staff over the holidays. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

As the farmers' union's paper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus points out, normally at this time of year, the Christmas party season – what the Finns call "Little Christmas" parties - is in full swing.

Usually organised by companies for employees, or clubs for their members, and held a few weeks before Christmas, this year even small scale events have been cancelled.

Timo Niinimäki who owns and operates the Kievari Rantapirtti party and catering service in Jämsä told the paper that company-sponsored events have been on and off ever since the start of the ccoronavirus epidemic. He mentioned one booking he had by employees of a company who wanted to have a small sauna evening at their own expense, rather than a traditional Christmas party, but the company nixed the idea.

Niinimäki says that reservations are coming and going. While he has wedding party bookings set for next summer, a number of events scheduled for next autumn have already been cancelled.

Although in general organising small events, people may be wary of getting close in a social setting with others even within their own group, CEO Asko Merilä from Merilä Manor in Utajärvi told Maaseudun Tulevaisuus.

Normally during the party season, Merilä Manor serves up 50–60 Christmas hams to guests, but Asko Merilä estimates that this year the number will be around twenty.

Home for Christmas?

Many urban dwellers in Finland usually leave the city for the Christmas to spend the holidays with extended families in the provinces.

The tabloid Iltalehti today points out that the increasingly restrictive measures being imposed in various regions of the country and the accelerating epidemic are likely to affect many people's plans this year.

It writes that especially in Helsinki and Uusimaa, where the situation is currently the most serious many are considering whether it is worthwhile going elsewhere for Christmas.

Travel to the Uusimaa region is not recommended and it is also being advised to avoid inviting guests from Uusimaa to visit other regions.

Chief physicians from a number of hospital districts interviewed by Iltalehti agree that the message now should be that any unnecessary travel is currently a risk, whatever the direction.

For example, Antti Hedman, Chief Physician of the North-Savo Hospital District, described the situation in his region as "calm", but pointed out that travel in and out of the district could pose a problem.

"The concern now is what Christmas celebrations will mean in the region. Christmas usually means family celebrations, which now play a big role in the spread of the disease, and even small family Christmases are a problem for the elderly or at-risk groups," Hedman points out.

These medical experts are urging anyone that does plan on travelling for Christmas to take extra care to stay away from crowds, avoid bars and pubs and any behaviour that could increase the spread of the virus.

Antti Hedman also urged Iltalehti readers to consider whether or not they really need to make physical visits over the holidays.

"We can connect in ways other than visits. Nowadays we have a variety of electronic tools to help us get together," Hedman points out.

Hospital staffing

Helsinki's Ilta-Sanomat reports that despite worries that medical facilities may face staff shortages over the upcoming holiday season, many hospital administrators told the paper that they expect staffing levels to be more or less normal for Christmas time.

Ilta-Lehti points out that if the epidemic were to get bad enough for the imposition of the Emergency Powers act by the government doctors and nurses could be forced to cancel any holiday time off.

According to Ilta-Sanomat in some hospital districts, the holiday time that medical personnel have in arrears from the spring may pose challenges to healthcare during Christmas holiday season, though.

In many places, efforts are being made to prevent possible labor shortages by redeploying staff, for example by postponing non-acute surgical procedures. In the Uusimaa hospital district, non-emergency care has already been reduced, but that is not uncommon during the Christmas holiday season.

This paper points out that in a large number of hospital districts, no critical deterioration of the situation is expected. Christmas time is normally busy, but in many hospital districts, the situation is not critical, at least for now.

Second-hand shopping

Finland's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat, reports that Finns have bought a record number of second-hand goods from websites since the start of the coronavirus epidemic.

Finland's largest second-hand marketplaces on the Internet, Tori.fi and Huuto.net say that they have seen a huge upswing in business this year.

And, the postal service Posti reports that the number of consumer-to-consumer packages it has delivered since the spring has increased by 40-50 percent.

Helsingin Sanomat asked Tori.fi what second-hand goods sold best in various parts of the country during the period of January – October this year.

The review found that in Helsinki, and many other localities, the best-selling products are second-hand clothes.

But is this not true everywhere. In Suonenjoki, for example, horsecare products top the list. In Outokumppu, it is used cars, in Kronoby it is moped and scooter parts, and in Nakkila audio equipment.

More second-hand products were sold at Tori.fi in January – October than during the whole of last year. This year, the online store has seen a particularly large increase in sales of children's clothing, toys and games, home furnishings, furniture and hobby equipment.

Not surprisingly, the online trade in second-hand goods has been boosted by people's efforts to avoid risks during the epidemic, according to Elina Närvänen, Assistant Professor of Services and Trade at the University of Tampere.

Another reason is most likely to save money.

“The financial situation of many people is uncertain. This can increase the demand for cheaper second-hand goods, ”says Närvänen.

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