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Wednesday's papers: Shops' mask rules tighten, Vaasa doc's scandal and Helsinki's famous teenage fish

Trade unions tighten mask rules for retail store employees and celebrity fish at Linnanmäki amusement park turned 16.

myyjä palvelee asiakasta maski päässään.
Mask rules tighten in stores across Finland. Image: Arttu Timonen / Yle

The Finnish Commerce Federation has said it will instruct operators of retail stores to use face masks based on health authorities’ three-phase action plan, aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus.

According to tabloid Iltalehti, the trade union has said that retail staff in regions that are in the acceleration phase of the epidemic are recommended to wear face masks if they are not behind a plexiglass shield or using face visors. Those working in non-customer areas are not required to wear face masks.

In regions that are in the spreading phase, everyone working in a store's retail premises are recommended to wear face coverings.

According to the trade union’s own estimates, the hospital districts of Helsinki and Uusimaa, Kanta-Häme, Pirkanmaa, Southwest Finland and South Ostrobothnia are currently in the acceleration phase. The Vaasa Hospital District has reported that it is in the more severe spreading phase.

Lauri Kulonen, an expert at the federation, said that some member companies have introduced face masks as a recommendation, while others have mandated their use. He added that if employers require face shields to be used, they need to pay for them.

Regarding supermarkets, in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, S-Group’s HOK-Elanto and retail giant Kesko group have already issued a mask mandate for all employees. Supermarket chain Lidl has issued recommendations to use masks for both staff and customers.

Vaasa chief physician suspected in billing scandal

Papers were abuzz with news of Markku Eronen, the chief physician of Vaasa Central Hospital, who is suspected of manufacturing unfounded mental health examination bills amounting to around 212,000 euros for at least 10 years.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has requested an investigation into the matter which was first reported by Yle.

The invoices in question have to do with consultation fees for psychiatric mental health examinations from out-of-hospital physicians, according to daily Helsingin Sanomat.

When there are not enough doctors in-house, an external doctor is hired as a contract worker to conduct a mental health examination. The fee paid to an external doctor for a mental health examination amounts to about 2,500 euros, according to Jukka Kärkkäinen, THL's chief physician and chairman of the hospital's board.

Since Eronen is a doctor at the hospital, he would have been entitled to a fee for in-house psychiatrists, which is about 250 euros. He is suspected of billing for consultations from an outside doctor at ten times the price.

Eronen stepped down from his position as medical director in January but has continued in his role as chief physician. He has previously been suspected of unjustified travel bills valued at 27,000 euros, which is currently being investigated by the police as aggravated fraud.

Celebrity fish turns 16

Mikko Meriahven, a celebrity fish in the Sea Life aquarium at Helsinki's Linnanmäki amusement park, turned 16 this week, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reported.

In honour of the famous sea bass' milestone, aquarium staff planned a surprise programme for Mikko and he was also served a fish-friendly birthday cake.

The bass has made headlines on a number of occasions in recent years. Last December, it was reported that Mikko swallowed a 35 cm bottle brush he grabbed from a staff member, and extracting the brush required surgery. It hasn't always been an easy life, as the sea bass once reportedly sank into a state of depression after eating a red lionfish that was his aquarium buddy.

Mikko still receives a good deal of fan mail from across Finland--and the letters of admiration are on display by his aquarium. His birthday is being celebrated at Sea Life all week.

Mikko-meriahven möllöttää akvaariossaan.
Celebrity sea bass Mikko Meriahvenen turned 16 this week. Image: Sara Salmi / Yle

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