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Tuesday's papers: New testing strategy, Covid passports, Helsinki transport strike

Newspapers report a new government coronavirus testing plan, and that Covid passports might not be needed after all.

Korona-näytteenotto -kyltti HUS Meilahden sairaala-alueella Helsingissä 10. syyskuuta 2021.
A sign pointing to a coronavirus testing station in Helsinki. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

The Helsinki tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports it has received information that a new coronavirus testing strategy prepared by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health was approved on Monday. The plan is aimed at freeing up testing capacity and shifting more human resources into diagnosing and treating other diseases.

According to the paper, once rolled out, the new plan will not carry a recommendation for testing otherwise healthy people with mild symptoms who have been fully vaccinated and who are not in a special risk group.

The same applies to anyone who has recovered from Covid more than six months previously and has received at least one dose of vaccine.

However, anyone showing symptoms or suspects they are infected will continue to have the opportunity to be tested.

A lower threshold for testing will be applied to fully vaccinated social and health workers, all those at special risk, and all patients entering hospital or emergency care.

The paper points out that reduced testing requires adequate vaccination protection for the population and a good regional epidemic situation. Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) has on several occasions referred to 80 percent vaccination coverage in the population over the age of 12 as a significant milestone.

According to Ilta-Sanomat, on Monday, 82.8 percent of the population aged 12 and over had received a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine and 64.1 percent had received two doses.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is expected to announce its new testing policy in the near future.

Covid passports still coming?

With a continuing rise in vaccination uptake and falling rates of infection, Helsingin Sanomat looks at whether or not a national vaccination certificate, or "passport" will still be needed in Finland.

The paper points out that some other countries, such as the UK and Denmark have recently suspended plans for vaccination documents which would have allowed access to certain events and venues.

Although the UK plan for England is not being rolled out at present, officials there have said it is being kept "in reserve".

Helsingin Sanomat writes that like in the UK, a Covid passport plan in Finland has not been launched, is still under consideration, and would require legislation that could enter into force in October at the earliest.

On the other hand, there is a plan in place to further open up society when 80 percent of residents over the age of 12 have received two vaccinations, or made available to the entire population. This is expected to take place at the end of October.

The director of the THL Department for Health Security, Mika Salminen told the paper that even with the improved situation, continuing preparations for a Covid passport rollout are worthwhile.

"If a Covid passport is needed, it would exist," Salminen told HS. "Whether or not to introduce it, and whether or not it is needed are questions that will then be assessed."

Helsingin Sanomat also points out that if a Covid passport is introduced, it would be short-lived. The government’s most recent strategy referred to it as an " intermediate solution" before fully opening up society.

In a separate item, Mika Salminen told HS that it is "quite safe" for anyone fully vaccinated to travel, espcially in Europe and the rest of the EU.

"Travel in itself is no longer a major risk," he said. "Of course, you should always look at the situation in each country yourself. But a categorical recommendation to avoid travelling has come to an end."

THL is expected to update its official recommendations concerning travel sometime this week.

Helsinki transport strike

The Swedish-language Hufvudstadsbladet is among the morning papers reporting that a strike by tram and metro drivers in Helsinki planned for Thursday and Friday will go ahead.

The drivers are protesting a plan to incorporate the city transport authority HKL that excludes the metro system. The say that the most recent restructuring scheme does not correspond to what was agreed upon between city management and drivers' representatives in the co-operation negotiations this past spring. Drivers called the strike after a demand for an investigation and review was rejected.

The two day strike will begin at 4am on Thursday, and according to HKL CEO Ville Lehmuskoski, that will bring all tram and metro traffic to a standstill.

The Helsinki Regional Transport Authority told Hufvudstadsbladet that it will not be providing extra bus or commuter train services during the strike.

Another phishing scam

Iltalehti carries an article warning of a new email scam targeting Nordea Bank customers.

Finland's National Cyber Security Centre says that the emails, which look authentic at first glance, inform recipients that a new payment services directive requires account log-in and acceptance of terms or the customer's account will be closed.

The message is totally false, and the Cyber Security Centre says that anyone who provided log-in information via the link in the email should contact their bank immediately.

A second, almost identical email scam is also in circulation.

If you have entered your password, you should change it as soon as possible. And, if you believe you have been scammed, you can also report the crime to the police.

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