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Tuesday's papers: AstraZeneca vaccine for most in Finland, fewer passports issued, more snow, microplastics on beaches

Coronavirus vaccines, snow and other topics made the headlines on Tuesday.

Suomen passi
Finnish passport, file photo. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

Finland’s biggest daily Helsingin Sanomat reports that the majority of healthy working-age Finns will be receiving the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, according to Mika Rämet, director of the Vaccine Research Centre at Tampere University.

AstraZeneca has promised to produce three billion doses of the vaccine this year. That would be enough to vaccinate 1.5 billion people.

The vaccine is currently awaiting the marketing authorisation process from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which, according to current information, is scheduled for the end of January. Following authorisation from the EMA, the vaccine still has to be approved by the European Commission.

Rämet is optimistic that by the summer, the majority of the population will have received a coronavirus vaccine. “This target requires that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines will be followed by a third, and preferably fourth vaccine,” he notes.

The Finnish government has faced criticism over the pace of the vaccine rollout, and last week Prime Minister Sanna Marin asked the EU Commission to speed up supply lines.

Passport applications down

The paper also writes that the number of passport applications plummeted last year, with the police issuing just half as many passports compared to the previous year.

Between January and October last year, the number of valid passports decreased by 207,000, while the number of valid identity cards increased by 127,000.

Juhani Ruutu, Chief Inspector at the National Police Board of Finland says it seems people have decided to opt for an identity card instead once their passport has expired.

However, the number of applications is expected to rise sharply once global travel restrictions are lifted again, HS writes.

The drop in demand for passport, along with an increase in printing costs have affected the prices of new passports, which rose by seven euros in January. Now passports costs between 52 euros and 58 euros, depending on whether applications are filed electronically or in person at a police station, as well as other factors.

Beach microplastics and other trash

A study by The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) revealed plastic waste and microplastics were found on beaches all the way from the Bay of Bothnia to the Gulf of Finland, reports farmers’ union daily Maaseudun Tulevaisuus.

Samples were collected from seven beaches in Oulu, Vaasa, Pori, Eurajoki, Porvoo, Helsinki and Hanko. The most littered was Helsinki's beach on the historic island of Suomenlinna.

Microplastics are formed when plastic waste breaks down into smaller pieces. It has been found in almost all kinds of environments, as well as human bodies. Last year, a study revealed microplastics had been found in the placenta of pregnant mothers.

"A large part of the plastic waste at Suomenlinna was made up of plastic fibers created from spraying concrete when the West Metro was built in Espoo. The fibres from the construction site have ended up in the sea,” said Anna Soirinsuo, WWF’s Marine Conservation Officer in a press release.

Another type of plastic waste commonly found on the beaches were cigarette butts, where the filter is made of plastic.

The cleanest beaches were seen in Yyteri in Pori and Bellevue in Hanko, which can probably be attributed to the cities' and local volunteer cleaning efforts, the expert said.

More snow on the way

More snow is expected in Finland towards the end of the week, reports tabloid Iltalehti.

According to Juha Föhr, a meteorologist at weather service Foreca, even southern parts of the country can expect another 20 centimetres of snow, at least.

Following the arrival of freezing temperatures last week, the Finnish coast guard urged people to stay off waters that appear to be frozen, as they might still be unsafe.

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