News |

Wednesday's papers: Tough new measures, "relieved" restaurants, and a coronavirus-free region

Finland's press takes stock of the government's new measures aimed at tackling the spread of the novel coronavirus.

työministeri Tuula Haatainen
Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen speaking to the media outside the House of the Estates on Tuesday evening. Image: Emmi Korhonen / Lehtikuva

Helsingin Sanomat leads today with a report on tougher measures on the way to combat coronavirus.

There was a meeting late on Tuesday at the House of the Estates in Helsinki between parliamentary party leaders and representatives from the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

A number of attendees spoke anonymously to HS, with one source revealing that the instructions from THL and the ministry have changed completely over the course of one week.

"Last week the message was that there is no need for too many tough measures to be introduced," the source said. "Now it was that the hospital district of Helsinki and Uusimaa is already in a bad situation and stronger action is required."

HS writes that one reason for the change in message is that the number of Finns arriving home from abroad between 2 and 15 March - estimated to be about 200,000 - have "surprised" authorities and the impact of their return was not fully taken into account. Furthermore, there were no strict guidelines in place about what returnees should do in order to limit the potential spread of the novel coronavirus.

"It is outrageous that quarantine from overseas was hesitated over, even though the problem should have been understood a week ago. At the meeting, it was admitted that this has gone wrong," another source told HS.

This means that in practice, many of the estimated 200,000 returning Finns - some coming from high-risk areas - simply walked off their flight into the airport terminal and onto crowded trains and buses, without adequate guidance or even the requirement to be quarantined.

This new assessment from THL justifies the restrictive measures the government is looking to introduce, such as the closing of bars and restaurants, and the restrictions on movement out of the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district, according to HS.

Restaurants "relieved" to close

Tabloid Iltalehti looks into the potential impact the closure order will have on bars and restaurants in Finland, and finds that there is a sense of "relief" in the industry.

IL visited the Hella restaurant in Oulu, and found a "good atmosphere" among the staff there as they have already mentally prepared for the forthcoming closures, and agree with the government’s decision.

"It's useless standing here when no customers are present," one Hella employee, Hanna, told the tabloid.

IL also spoke to Mika Lintula, owner of the LiV restaurant in Tampere, who said that although he is pleased a decision has been reached after a period of uncertainty, there are very challenging times ahead.

"We are trying to think of new solutions that would kick-start sales. If people sit at home for ten weeks, there could be demand for take-away food. Still, with a quick calculation, it is clear that we need huge sales in order to cover costs," Lintula said.

Virus-free zone

Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat visits the region of Kainuu, along the border with Russia, which until yesterday had been seemingly unaffected by the novel coronavirus pandemic with no confirmed cases. IS adds, however, that "it is only a matter of time" before the first confirmed diagnosis is made.

In the meantime, residents of the region’s capital city Kajaani told IS that they are supportive of the proposed restrictions on domestic travel.

"Of course, restrictions are needed, because nothing else seems to help," truck driver Pasi Ryhänen told the tabloid. "Although the situation on the road has calmed down, there are still tourists there, and too many people who do not heed the recommendations."

Despite the lack of coronavirus case, IL writes that residents of the area are being careful to keep a safe distance from each other and avoiding unnecessary trips.

"I think this government should get full credit for being able to lead the country in the right way and make these decisions. Maybe because women are the leaders," an 81 year old ex-MP from the area, Aarno von Bell, said.

Edit: Updated at 3.40pm to reflect that the period during which Finns are believed to have returned from abroad was from early to mid-March.

Latest in: News

Headlines

Our picks

Latest

Muualla Yle.fi:ssä