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Wednesday's papers: Minister's concerns, car tax proposals and Beirut embassy destroyed

The press on Wednesday was once again dominated by reports of an uptick in coronavirus cases.

Mies puhuu puhelimeen kasvomaski päässä kauppakeskuksessa.
A two-metre distance from others is the recommendation, and face masks can reduce the risk if that's not possible. Image: Toni Määttä / Yle

Finland's health minister Krista Kiuru returned to work on Monday, and it's fair to say her inbox was fairly full. Finland's coronavirus case count is slowly increasing, and fears of a second wave of the epidemic are growing.

Ilta-Sanomat warned that Helsinki University hospital district official Eeva Ruotsalainen considered the rise to be a concern, and showed a graphic illustration indicating that the prevalence of Covid-19 in the capital city region had quadrupled in four weeks over the summer.

Helsingin Sanomat and Iltalehti both carry lengthy interviews with Kiuru asking what she plans to do about it.

The upshot is that she's asked public health agency THL to prepare a recommendation on face mask usage in situations where people cannot maintain two metres' distance from others, and they are expected to provide more information on that on Thursday.

She's also worried about people returning from holiday not isolating for two weeks as per recommendations, and reminded people in Finland that they really need to wait before mixing with others on their return.

It's also possible that Finland could reinstate a recommendation to work from home if possible, and look again at the loosening of restrictions on events for more than 500 people, according to Kiuru.

Beirut explosion hits Finnish mission

All the newspapers are dominated by an explosion in Beirut that destroyed a big chunk of the city on Tuesday afternoon.

At least 78 people died and thousands more were injured in the blast, which Lebanese ministers say was caused by highly explosive materials in a warehouse.

Helsingin Sanomat reports that Finland's embassy in the city was destroyed, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with Finnish diplomats in the city continuing to contact Finns on the ground to ensure their safety. No staff at the embassy were hurt.

Smart car tax proposal

One story doing the rounds on social media is a proposal from ITS Finland, an association of governmental, state and regional administration bodies set up to consider new ideas around transport policy.

Ilta-Sanomat has examined documents from the Finance Ministry's working group on transport taxes and found that one proposal from ITS Finland is for people driving a car alone, without other passengers, to pay a kilometre-based tax at a higher rate than motorists with a fuller car.

The working group is due to report in March 2021 with concrete proposals on a more climate-friendly taxation regime expected soon after.

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