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Wednesday's papers: PPE worries, shrinking economy, trust in the media

The newspaper press reports that the supply of personal protective equipment is an increasing worry for Finnish healthcare professionals.

Lääkäri pukee hengityssuojainta
A doctor putting on a surgical mask. Image: Pasi Takkunen / Yle

Helsinki's Helsingin Sanomat reports that the supply of personal protective equipment in the nation's strategic stockpile is being depleted, even though the coronavirus epidemic is still in an early phase in Finland. The paper states that one reason is that the preparedness of healthcare districts was not at the level that had been assumed.

Two weeks ago, the Ministry of Social affairs and Health announced that Finland's strategic stockpiles had been opened. The move was made to ensure that there would be a sufficient supply of protective equipment for healthcare professionals nationwide as the coronavirus epidemic progresses.

Even though the stockpiles have been made available, worries about whether there is enough personal protective equipment have not subsided. "On the contrary," writes Helsingin Sanomat, "A number of healthcare districts and the representatives of healthcare workers' organizations have spoken of a lack of protective equipment."

The paper asked Lasse Ilkka, Senior Advisor at Ministry of Social affairs and Health preparedness unit, if there is enough personal protective equipment available.

"I cannot say yes for certain," Ilkka replied, "If all purchases go as planned, then there will be enough equipment. There would be a shortage, if purchases had not been made and production started. The equipment in the stockpile would not be enough to meet needs for the whole period of the epidemic."

Director General at Ministry of Social Affairs and Health Päivi Sillanaukee told Yle on Monday that healthcare professionals make around 50 million home visits a year.

Helsingin Sanomat points out that home care for the elderly alone requires the use of some one million protective masks a week. It does note, however, that under ministry guidelines, cloth masks that can re-sterilized can also be used.

In light of these figures, says the paper, the first shipment of protective equipment purchased from China that arrived on Tuesday does not look like much of a lifeline.

The more than two million surgical masks and 200,000 other masks in the hold of the plane, at current rates of use, will last little more than a week.

A right to testing

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat carries a report by the Uutissuomalainen news group in which Emeritus Professor in Labour Law Seppo Koskinen argues that all workers, not just those in the healthcare sector have a legal right to be tested for the coronavirus.

Koskinen points out that according to occupational safety laws, employers are obligated to ensure that workplaces are safe for both employees and customers.

"Every employers must now get on this and arrange testing. This is the only way to get back to normal routines," he said.

According to Professor Koskinen, employees have the right to refuse to work if their health is endangered. Also, workplace health and safety representatives have the right to stop work if they deem it to be unsafe.

Economic slump - short but deep

Finland's main Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet gives readers a preview of a forecast to be published on Wednesday by the Labour Institute for Economic Research PT which now thinks that the country's gross domestic product will fall by around 5 percent this year due to the coronavirus crisis.

Next year though, the economy is expected to grow by around 4.5 percent.

PT's forecast is for the crisis to create to a deep, but short-term economic downturn, which will be over by the autumn.

However, PT does points out that its forecast contains a number of uncertainties and that it should be seen as indicative of the direction the economy is moving.

The research institute believes that employment will begin to increase during the late summer and autumn. Private consumption will decrease substantially, especially in the service sector. Public consumption, on the other hand, will increase, not least because of increased healthcare spending.

Investments were already falling this year before in any case, mainly due to the declining economic development of the construction industry.

PT advocates direct financial support for companies to keep them alive.

"The costs of a wave of bankruptcies would be more expensive than stopping the crisis by temporarily supporting companies. Therefore, it is justified to significantly increase direct support to enterprises."

In addition, says the PT forecast, the state needs to increase income transfers to those who have been laid off or lost their jobs in order to help households and the service industry.

Trust in mainstream media

Oulu's Kaleva reports that a fresh survey indicates that the vast majority of Finns rely on television and newspapers for what they consider reliable news about the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on their lives and society in general.

The poll, commissioned by the Finnish Newspapers Association, found that 79 percent of people surveyed said that overall, television and the internet services of television companies are a key source of information related to the epidemic. 72 percent considered these to be reliable sources.

In the 18-24 age group, just over two-thirds named digital or print newspapers as their primary source of coronavirus-related reporting.

One-fifth of all adults, and 40 percent in the 18-24 age group, said that social media is a major source of the reports they have seen, but according to this study, only 6 percent consider social media as a reliable source of information on the coronavirus epidemic.

Carpe diem

Helsinki's Iltalehti advises its readers to enjoy the weather today, because it's going to get chilly again over the Easter holiday.

Temperatures in the capital are forecast to fall to +5C by Friday, and although the paper assures us that winter is not making a comeback, snow flurries are not out of the question.

Iltalehti does see a silver lining though, writing that colder weather is not a bad thing, since it might help people observe the current ban on group gatherings.

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