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Yle poll: Less than half in Finland wear face masks as recommended

Many say they don't wear masks because there is plenty of space in Finland.

Ihmisiä kiirehtii junalta kasvomaskeihin suojautuneena Helsingin rautatieasemalla.
Passers-by wearing masks at Helsinki's Central Railway Station. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Forty-two percent of people surveyed in Finland said that they wear face masks according to recommendations or even more frequently. However 55 percent said they either do not wear one at all, or less than recommended.

The poll of just over 1,000 people was carried out last week by public opinion research firm Taloustutkimus. Polling began less than a week after the government finally recommended mask usage on 13 August as infection rates began to rise again after a quiet summer holiday period.

Mask usage rates seem to be highest in the outer municipalities of the greater Helsinki region, where 47 percent of respondents said they wear facegear according to the minimum recommendations and 11 percent said they wear masks even more often than recommended. Figures in the Turku area of southwest Finland were nearly as high.

In the capital region, 40 percent said they wear masks according to the guidelines while eight percent said they used them even more than stipulated by the minimum recommendations.

Finland has the lowest population density of any EU state, with just 18.2 inhabitants per square kilometre. However in the Uusimaa region, which includes the capital area, this rises to 184 people per square kilometre.

This week All Points North looks at Finland's chances of becoming a safe haven from the Covid-19 pandemic. You can listen to the full podcast via the embedded player here or via Yle Areena, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or your usual podcast player using the RSS feed. Be sure to subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts and sign up for the APN newsletter.

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Audio: Yle News

Men, Finns Party backers less likely to wear masks

The national health agency THL recommends mask usage in healthcare districts where Covid-19 infections have been confirmed within the preceding two weeks.

The government and THL urge people to wear masks in most parts of the country when in confined spaces where social distancing is not possible, including public transport, as well as when on one's way to or from getting a coronavirus test, on return from a risky area and whenever one is obliged to go out in public while under quarantine.

Women clearly use masks more than men, with 44 percent of men saying they never wear one compared to just 31 percent of women.

"This is probably related to the fact that women use public transport more than men and are more likely to live in cities," says research director Juho Rahkonen of Taloustutkimus, which carried out the study.

Fifty-four percent of those over the age of 65 said they wear masks according to recommendations or more, compared to just 32 percent of those aged 15-24.

Backers of the populist Finns Party reported the lowest mask usage, with 56 percent saying they had never used one.

"Finns Party supporters include a lot of men who drive cars, live in detached homes and don't live an urban life. The restrictions don't have much effect on their lives," speculates Rahkonen.

"Too expensive" or "unnecessary"

The highest use was among supporters of the Greens, with half saying they wear masks at least according to recommendations. Many of the party's backers live in cities and use mass transit.

When those who said they do not use face masks were asked why, about a quarter said they were too expensive, and another quarter said they did not think they were necessary, while 22 percent said they did not believe that face masks provided enough protection.

Health officials have stressed that the main reason for their use is to protect others from possible exposure rather than the wearers themselves.

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