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Wednesday's papers: Pandemic lessons, vaccine alternatives, big property players

The papers look at the lessons that can be learned from the past year fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Ikäihmisiä jonottamassa rokotuskoppeihin Verkatehtaalla
Slower than expected deliveries of the coronavirus vaccine have led to criticism of the EU's procurement plans. Image: Miki Wallenius / Yle

If you're confused about who's in charge of what when it comes to fighting the coronavirus pandemic, you may not be the only one.

"There is a patchwork of actors fighting infectious disease, and the division of labour is anything but clear," says Wednesday's Helsingin Sanomat. The paper quotes professor and legal expert Matti Muukkonen from the University of Eastern Finland, who says Finland's emergency law regulations need to be clarified.

According to Muukkonen, the responsibility for controlling infectious diseases is decentralised to a number of different authorities whose specific tasks and responsibilities are not clearly defined.

The paper highlights the number of different players involved in handling the pandemic: the government, parliament, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), not to mention the regional state administrative agencies (Avi), hospital districts and various advisory groups.

What are the lessons to be learned? Muukkonen, who is working on a study on the division of labour during a disease outbreak, suggests that in future THL could be established as a central authority in emergency circumstances.

What should Finland do about the coronavirus vaccine?

Daily tabloid Ilta-Sanomat asks why Finland is "the quiet front-row student who does everything the teacher asks," while other EU countries including Denmark and Austria look for coronavirus vaccine solutions that fall outside of the EU's joint procurement programme.

The question comes following widespread criticism of the speed of vaccine deliveries to Finland, part of an EU-wide supply issue that saw the bloc attempt to impose export controls on the precious shots.

Denmark and Austria have begun to co-operate with Israel on production on the second generation of coronavirus vaccines, Ilta-Sanomat writes, while fellow EU members Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have turned to the Russian-made Sputnik vaccine.

The paper quotes THL's Chief Physician Hanna Nohynek, calling the initiatives "interesting moves, which I can understand quite well."

One obstacle Ilta-Sanomat notes is that the Sputnik vaccine is not currently authorised for use in the EU. According to the Finnish Medicines Agency, Fimea, the makers would need to obtain a pass from the European Medicines Agency before the jab could be given in Finland.

Pension funds expand their property portfolios

Business-focused Kauppalehti reports on the growth in the number of apartments owned by major pension insurance companies in Finland.

The paper says that the country's biggest pension insurance provider, Ilmarinen, owns about 5,000 apartments, while competitor Varma has around 4,000, with around a thousand more due to be added in the coming years.

The homes are largely concentrated in the capital region and Tampere, Kauppalehti writes.

It's all down to a law passed in 2015, the paper says, which allowed pension companies to borrow money in order to build housing for private rental.

The law is scheduled to expire in 2022, but according to Kauppalehti a draft housing policy submitted to parliament in December last year would see the law extended.

"We have been able to build or start work on over a thousand homes under the temporary law," Ilmarinen's director of domestic real estate investment Tomi Aimonen told the paper.

"It has increased the supply of non-subsidised rental housing," he said.

Last year, Yle News' All Points North podcast covered the issue of rising rents in Finland's cities.You can listen to the full episode via the embedded player here or via Yle Areena, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or your usual podcast player using the RSS feed.

Article continues after audio.

Audio: Yle News

Anne Viita, executive director at the Finnish Tenants organisation, told the podcast the problem lies in housing being perceived as a commodity and not a basic right.

"Reasonably priced housing should be available to everyone," she said.

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