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Tuesday's papers: Vaccine confidence, stimulus vote, storm warnings

Morning papers report on a fresh poll showing a large majority of Finns trust the safety of coronavirus vaccines.

Eduskunnan kyselytunti 18.2.2021
The Finnish Parliament is scheduled to vote on the EU stimulus package on Tuesday. Image: Pekka Tynell / Yle

Turku's Turun Sanomat carries a review of a poll indicating that over 80 percent of people in Finland consider the benefits of coronavirus vaccines to outweigh any possible negative effects.

Commissioned by the Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA the poll shows that a slightly lower proportion, 77 percent, is confident that the vaccines are both safe and effective.

Older respondents had the most confidence in the jabs.

"The more positive attitude of retirees towards vaccines may be explained by the age-related risk of coronavirus. On the other hand, another explanation can be seen in their histories - people over the age of 65 have lived through a time when dangerous infectious diseases were brought under control with vaccines," says EVA Communications Manager Heini Larros in a Tuesday morning press release.

Finns also see risks in the vaccines. More than half (58%) agreed that vaccines are never completely safe. Concerns about side effects were expressed by 43 percent, but the majority (55%) said this is not a worry.

Altogether, 87 percent of respondents have either already received a coronavirus vaccination or say they are likely to get vaccinated.

"Political attitudes seem to have some effect on willingness to be vaccinated. Voters who support the Finns Party and the Christian Democrats see more risks in vaccination than do others," states Larros.

Variant concerns

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports that Central Ostrobothnia and Päijät-Häme are the only two regions in the country where the incidence rate of the coronavirus (new infections over the past two weeks per 100,000 inhabitants) now tops 100.

The incidence rate in Central Ostrobothnia as of Monday was 115.3 and 114.0 in Päijät-Häme.

The number of hospitalised Covid patients in Päijät-Häme rose to a record total of 19 last week. There are currently 15 coronavirus patients in hospital, 2 of them in intensive care. In addition, seven patients who needed intensive care treatment over the past two weeks were transferred to units at other university hospitals in Helsinki, Turku and Kuopio.

"There were clearly more hospitalisations than during the winter or spring. The number cannot be explained by the age distribution of the patients. We have been wondering if this could be a new variant. Sequencing of the samples has not yet been completed," Tuomo Nieminen, Chief Medical Officer of the Päijät-Häme Social and Health Care Group told Ilta-Sanomat.

Of the 19 patients admitted to hospital last week, nine had received their first dose of a vaccine.

Nieminen pointed out that although the first dose of the vaccine provides good protection against a serious infection requiring hospital care, immunity is not total and that those who have had a jab should continue to practice basic preventive measures.

EU stimulus vote

Tampere's Aamulehti reminds its readers that a plenary session of Parliament will vote on Tuesday whether or not to accept the EU stimulus package.

The decision will require a two-thirds majority, so the votes of the governing parties will need support from the opposition.

Finland's position on the EU's 750 billion euro stimulus package and a seven-year budget of over 1 trillion euros is significant, because if any member state does not give its approval the progress of the whole plan will be suspended.

To date, 20 of the 27 member states have completed the approval process.

As for Tuesday's vote, Aamulehti writes that all eyes will be on the opposition National Coalition Party (NCP) which has given its members a free rein to cast the votes as they wish. There are NCP members both in favour and opposed to the package. The paper expects all other opposition parties to vote against the package.

The level of support the government needs from the NCP depends on how many MPs are present for the vote and whether or not any members of government coalition partners vote against the package.

Sharp rise in drug use

Positive readings of traces of illegal drugs in wastewater have risen sharply over the past decade, indicating a widespread increase in drug use, reports Jyväskylä's Keskisuomalainen.

Wastewater surveys carried out by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL show that the combined use of amphetamines, cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine has about tripled since 2012.

Amphetamine use has increased especially in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

Using wastewater samples, THL says that the highest amphetamine use levels in Helsinki and the surrounding areas, recorded to date were found last March. Amphetamine use has also become more common in Lappeenranta, Kotka and Pori.

In contrast, an increase in cocaine use seen in recent years has leveled off.

Storm warnings

Severe weather forecast to hit southern Finland on Monday was weaker than expected, but on Tuesday thunderstorms may cause significant damage in eastern parts of the country, reports Iltalehti.

Warnings have been issued of severe thunderstorms in North and South Karelia and of potentially dangerous thunderstorms over a wider area in eastern Finland.

FMI meteorologist Iiris Viljamaa told the paper that the storms may be accompanied by strong gusts of wind, posing the danger of damage in some areas. She added that boaters in the eastern lake district need to take the storm warnings seriously.

After Monday's rains, western regions, Pirkanmaa and Uusimaa can look forward to drier weather during the day.

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