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Wednesday's papers: New border regulations in force, falling ice and snow, newspaper readership

Stricter entry restrictions are now force in Finland, allowing only essential commuter traffic for the next 30 days.

Tallink Star satamassa Jätkäsaaressa talvella.
Far fewer travellers are expected to arrive by ferry from Estonia while the latest border restrictions continue in force. Image: Petteri Bülow / Yle

Helsinki tabloid Ilta-Sanomat is among the papers reporting that new travel restrictions come into force as of Wednesday and will remain in place for the next 30 days.

The new regulations have been introduced due to concerns about a re-acceleration of the coronavirus epidemic and the spread of more contagious virus variants in Finland.

The paper writes that essential travel is considered commuter traffic that is necessary for the security of supply and the functioning of society. As examples, it points to personnel in transport, health and rescue services, diplomats and members of the media.

The border can also still be crossed for family reasons, and study is also an acceptable reason for entry.

The exemptions for residents of communities along the Finnish-Swedish border are also being suspended.

However, as Ilta-Sanomat notes, Finnish citizens and residents of Finland have a constitutional right to enter and leave the country. The Foreign Ministry is, though, urging the avoidance of all unnecessary travel, as well as travel to Britain, Ireland and South Africa.

The Border Guard has estimated that the new travel restrictions will reduce the number of passengers coming to Finland by air and sea by about 75 percent. The greatest impact is expected to be on traffic between Finland and Estonia.

Government friction

Finland's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat, reports that there were some sharp disagreements within the cabinet during the latest round of talks on measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

According to HS, the Ministry of Education and Culture had prepared a plan which would have re-opened group hobbies for people under the age of 18 under certain conditions as early as February.

This plan was backed by the Centre Party chair, and Minister of Science and Culture, Annika Saarikko. However, several government sources told HS that Krista Kiuru (SDP), the minister for family affairs and basic services, blocked the plan after heated negotiations that extended over two nights.

The paper's sources said that Kiuru and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health argued that opening up hobby activities for children and young people would be too great a risk at present. Health Ministry officials fear that if the coronavirus variants begin to show a rapid spread in the country, children and young people could be significant carriers.

Heads up!

Iltalehti warns its readers that warmer temperatures following heavy snowfall is causing masses of ice and snow to slide off rooftops, posing a serious danger to pedestrians in urban areas.

It reports that people cleaning roofs have also taken falls in the capital, ay least two of whom were injured badly enough to require emergency surgery.

Falling snow and ice can be deadly to passersby, as well. For example, in 2012 a middle-aged woman was killed in Helsinki's Taka-Töölö district by snow falling from a roof onto the pavement below.

Pasi Lönnberg, the head of Helsinki's Urban Environment Division, told Iltalehti that he is not aware of any injuries from falling snow and ice yet this winter, however. The City monitors conditions of rooftops considered most likely to pose a danger and orders them to be cleaned as early as possible.

Property owners, and not the City, are responsible for keeping roofs and street-side pavements clear of snow and ice.

Newspapers still popular

The local paper in Ekenäs (Tammisaari in Finnish) Västra Nyland reports that nearly all adult Finns still read newspapers either in print or digital form.

As many as 95 percent of all Finns 15 years of age or older read newspapers, according to a fresh survey commissioned by the publishers' and advertisers' group Media Audit Finland. Of those, about 86 percent report reading newspapers mainly online. In the 25-44 year age group, that figure was 93 percent.

Print papers are holding their own, however. Up to 56 percent of Finns read printed newspapers. In the over-over 65 age group, 78 percent read hard-copy papers, while a third of young people aged 15-34 still print papers as well.

In a comment on the results of the survey, Västra Nyland quotes Sirpa Kirjonen, the director of marketing and research at Finland's News Media Association as saying, "The traditional saying that Finns are a newspaper-reading people is still true."

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