- The number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Finland stood at 880 as of Wednesday afternoon (25.3)
- Health officials reported five fatalities as of Thursday 26.3
- Newspapers suggest Finland was inadequately prepared for epidemic
- Defence Forces report eight novel coronavirus infections
- Military said to be ready to help police enforce movement restrictions
- Government announces Uusimaa lockdown
26.3 13:06 Fifth death reported
The Helsinki-Uusimaa hospital district (HUS) also reported another fatality on Thursday. Officials announced that an elderly person had died of Covid-19 the previous day.
This was the third such death in the HUS region, which is Finland’s most densely populated and has borne the brunt of the epidemic so far. As of Friday nearly all travel in and out of the region is to be halted in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.
26.3 12:41 Fourth death reported
An “older” patient has died of coronavirus complications in the Päijät-Häme region of south-central Finland. Officials have not released further details, citing privacy concerns.
Päijät-Häme Central Hospital in Lahti was treating four Covid-19 patients on Thursday, with two of them in intensive care.
Two more people in the Päijät-Häme district have tested positive for the illness, bringing the official tally to 15. The new cases include one hospital staff member.
Finland’s coronavirus timeline is behind those of its Nordic neighbours. Sweden, with a population nearly twice that of Finland, has reported 62 deaths. Norway, which is roughly the same size, has 14 so far.
26.3 12:20 Police may fine people attempting to cross Uusimaa border
Police on Thursday said they were prepared to deploy some 700 officers to virtually seal off the southern Uusimaa region. At a police press conference, deputy national police commissioner Sanna Heikinheimo explained that while people still have the right to find their way home, officers will stop vehicles from passing in order to determine whether they can enter. More on this story here.
26.3 9:58 Papers focus on pending lockdown
Our review of Thursday’s morning papers finds anticipation of arrangements for the government’s plan to seal off the Uusimaa to slow the spread of novel coronavirus.
Dailies also cover how the virus has decimated pension fund investments, airport health advice for returning citizens and residents and a surge in online grocery shopping.
Read the paper review here.
25.3 22:15 Uusimaa lockdown announced
It’s official: Finland is to stop travel in and out of the Uusimaa region, home to the capital Helsinki. The epidemic is further advanced in uusimaa than elsewhere, so the government wants to limit movement in and out of the region. Our story here.
25.3 18:44 THL forecast: 11-15,000 to be hospitalised by coronavirus
The Institute for Health and Welfare, THL, has raised its assessment of how severely novel coronavirus will spread across the country, the authority announced in a release issued Wednesday afternoon.
In a new assessment the agency estimated that around 11,300 individuals in Finland will require hospital treatment for Covid-19 infections. Out of that group, around 3,600 will need a spell in an intensive care unit. The findings were reached by experts from THL and the University of Turku.
The updated statistical model projected that during the peak of the outbreak 900 individuals would be in hospital with about 280 in intensive care.
Read the whole article here.
25.3 16:35 Poll: Broad support for tighter restrictions to curb epidemic
A new Yle poll shows solid support for the measures introduced by Sanna Marin‘s government to contain the spread of novel coronavirus. According to the survey conducted early this week by pollster Taloustutkimus, 49 percent of 1,800-odd respondents said that government’s recommendations and interventions have been appropriate and timely.
However 46 percent said that they would have liked to see the government impose even tighter restrictions. Just three percent said that they thought the current measures were overblown.
Read the whole article here.
25.3 15:10 THL reports 880 coronavirus cases confirmed in Finland
There were 880 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in Finland as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). The new figure represents an increase of 88 diagnoses since Tuesday.
However, the number of people with coronavirus infections in Finland may be 20-30 times higher than the confirmed rate, according to earlier statements by the Director-General of THL, Markku Tervahauta.
THL reported that there were 82 Covid-19 patients receiving care in hospital, with 22 patients in intensive care units.
Earlier on Wednesday the death toll attributed to coronavirus in Finland reached three, according to reports from hospital districts.
The health agency also reported that 61 percent of Covid-19 patients were male, with the remainder 39 percent being female.
As of Wednesday, Finland had carried out around 13,000 novel coronavirus tests, according to THL.
25.3 14:26 Detention centre residents on hunger strike over coronavirus
About a dozen detainees of the Joutseno detention centre near Lappeenranta have begun a hunger strike in protest at their continued detention despite the coronavirus pandemic.
“At lunchtime on Monday, about ten people said they were on hunger strike. Three of them came to eat normally on Tuesday,” Antti Jäppinen, deputy director of the Joutseno reception center, told Yle.
Jäppinen added that the hunger strikers are protesting that their indefinite detention because of travel restrictions introduced over the coronavirus outbreak. As a result, people are currently unable to travel abroad from Finland except in exceptional circumstances.
Read the whole article here.
25.3 13:14 Finnish paint factory pumps out 100k litres of hand sanitiser a week
Following a worldwide shortage of hand sanitiser, a paint factory in south-west Finland has started producing the product in order to meet a surge in demand as the coronavirus crisis continues.
GVK Coating Technology’s facilty, based on the small island municipality of Pargas is pumping out about 100,000 litres of the disinfectant per week, according to CEO Anssi Seppinen, who added that factory workers were working three shifts around the clock.
Read the full article here.
25.3 12:55 Air ambulance flies sick Finns home from Spain
A private firm has flown Finnish passengers seriously ill with Covid-19, the diseases caused by novel coronavirus, from Malaga in Spain to Finland. According to the firm, Ema Finland, the patients were transported to Finland on Tuesday for treatment in intensive care units.
The firm said that the patients had already concluded their courses of hospital treatment in Spain and were covered by travel insurance. The company’s medical director Tuomas Hiltunen said in a telephone interview that the level of care in Spain was not as high as in Finland and that patients were “even left to fend for themselves.”
He said that they were transported from Spain in special units with pressurised air filter systems to ensure their safety during the flight and to protect cabin crew and caregivers. Hiltunen said that he was worried about Finns still in Malaga’s Costa del Sol region and added that the virus was spreading in their community. He added that local hospitals were overwhelmed.
The anaesthesiologist and intensive care specialist said that he expected more coronavirus patients to return to Finland.
25.3 11.52 Finland’s coronavirus death toll now up to three
Two patients have died in Finland from novel coronavirus in the last 24 hours, according to separate statements from the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS) and the Kanta-Häme Hospital District.
There are more details in our article here.
25.3 11.27 Military ready to help enforce new restrictions
Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen says the military is on standby to assist police if the government decided to restrict movement in and out of the Uusimaa region.
Helsinki officials say they are also pressing for tighter new rules but want assurances that essential personnel like doctors and nurses can travel in and out of the region for work.
25.3 11:06 Eight coronavirus cases in Defence Forces
Eight Defence Force personnel have tested positive for novel coronavirus, according to a statement from General Headquarters on Wednesday.
The defence command said that between Saturday and Monday a total of four new cases were diagnosed: two cases were confirmed in the Guard Jaeger Regiment, one in the Navy and another in the Army.
The Jaeger Regiment personnel who tested positive were said to have been infected abroad. Meanwhile, the infected Navy and Army personnel were believed to have contracted the disease in Finland. The organisation said that of the eight cases diagnosed so far, three are conscripts and five are other personnel.
25.3 9.30 Wednesday’s papers reveal justification for tough new measures
Our press review this morning reports on how a meeting at the House of the Estates in Helsinki on Tuesday evening has revealed that Finnish authorities were not as well prepared for the coronavirus pandemic as might have been previously thought. A report in Wednesday morning’s Helsingin Sanomat suggests there were very few guidelines in place on how to deal with an estimated 200,000 Finns returning from abroad over the past week.
25.3 7:55 What can you do during the pandemic?
There has been some confusion about what exactly people are and are not supposed to do during the coronavirus pandemic. This handy graphic, based on advice from THL, aims to explain all.
Blog continues after graphic.
24.3 20:05 Marin: Restaurants and bars to close till end of May
Prime Minister Sanna Marin has announced that Finland will put a law before parliament on Tuesday evening that will close all bars and restaurants in the country until 31 May.
Marin told the media about the plan as she entered talks with her governing coalition partners at the House of the Estates in Helsinki.
“At best we will get the restrictions in force as quickly as possible. I can say that the rules are in force until 31 May, but we are ready to rescind them earlier if it’s possible. We wanted to give a definite date to companies that they can prepare for.”
Minister for Employment Tuula Haatainen added that the restriction means that customers cannot eat at restaurants, but they can buy takeaway. Workplace cafeterias will remain open as normal.
Haatainen said that the earliest the restrictions could come into force would be this Saturday.
24.3 18:27 Supermarket, pharmacy tills getting plexiglass shields
All three of Finland’s major grocery store chains are planning to install plexiglass shields at the store checkout counters in an effort to protect workers from coronavirus infections.
Pharmacies and banks are also taking similar action.
Read the whole article here.
24.3 16:05 Researchers predict up to 6% economic contraction this year
Analysts at Pellervo Economic Research PTT are forecasting a three- to six-percent decline in economic activity in Finland this year. However if the novel coronavirus crisis is drawn out, the effects could be even greater and the downturn could last well into 2021.
PTT head of forecasting Janne Huovari said that the lockdowns being seen in many countries are not only repressing the spread of the virus, they may bring major and permanent changes to societies, world politics, and the global economy.
Read the full story here.
24.3 15:46 British Foreign Office urges nationals on trips to return to UK
The UK’s Foreign Office has advised all British travellers abroad who are usually based in the UK to return home as soon as possible.
The office noted that international travel is becoming increasingly limited, as countries around the world are closing borders and airlines further cancel flights.
British travellers are being advised to contact their tour operators or airlines immediately, adding that commercial flights were still available at the moment.
According to the Guardian newspaper, up to one million British nationals are currently on holiday or business trips abroad.
24.3 14:49 Finnish govt working on measures to close restaurants, limit travel
Finland’s five-party coalition government met in Helsinki on Tuesday afternoon to discuss taking further action to slow the spread of coronavirus.
On Monday Prime Minister Sanna Marin said government was working on measures such as closing all restaurants and to restrict mobility in some areas but noted that current legislation was inflexible and needed parliamentary action before all of the measures could be implemented.
On Tuesday the parliamentary parties unanimously agreed that more stringent measures were necessary.
Marin told reporters that the two main measures legislators were working on include shutting restaurants and restricting travel to and from southern Finland’s Uusimaa region – which includes greater Helsinki – an area featuring the highest rate of Covid-19 infections in the country.
Marin said that the government’s new proposed measures would be submitted to parliament on Wednesday, but added that she was unable to say how long it would take for MPs to approve the proposals.
The government leaders are scheduled to reconvene on Tuesday at 4pm to further discuss the issues.
24.3 14:12 Why are supermarket shelves still empty?
Retailers say goods are available and logistics are functioning – but telecommuting has changed buying habits.
Finland’s two main supermarket chains, S-Group and Kesko have pledged that shelves will soon be stocked again.
Read the whole article here.
24.3 13:12 Finns Party pulls no-confidence motion over Greek refugees
The opposition Finns Party’s parliamentary group has announced that it will temporarily withdraw a parliamentary question and related no-confidence motion over the government’s asylum policy.
The party’s parliamentary group said that it is ready to back united efforts to tackle the coronavirus crisis.
Read the whole story here.
24.3 12:57 THL confirms 792 coronavirus cases in Finland
Finland had 792 lab-confirmed cases of novel coronavirus by early Tuesday afternoon, according to the Institute of Health and Welfare, THL.
THL said that 40 patients were receiving hospital treatment, with 11 in intensive care.
Sixty-one percent of the patients are male with the remaining 39 percent female.
To date, Finland has confirmed one death due to a novel coronavirus infection.
24.3 12:40 Finland opens phone, SMS coronavirus info line for those without internet
The Finnish government has set up a telephone and chat service for residents without internet access to get information about the coronavirus outbreak.
The service is primarily in Finnish, but the government said Swedish and English would also be made available when it is possible.
An online-based chat service will also be intermittently available on this page, which is in Finnish.
People with general questions about the epidemic are instructed to call this number: +358 295 535 535. Those who cannot talk on the phone due to hearing loss or other reasons can send questions via SMS text message to +358 50 902 0163.
The phone and SMS information service is open on weekdays at 8am–9pm and Saturdays at 9am–3pm.
The government said the service bases their guidance on information from the website content of THL, the Institute for Health and Welfare and underscored that it does not provide advice regarding legal- or health-related matters such as acute symptoms.
The government advised residents needing general advice to reach out to their local health centres and to contact emergency health services if assistance is needed regarding more acute symptoms.
Finland is in the process of setting up a general medical helpline (116 117), which gives advice about health care and social services, and is expected to come into use across mainland Finland during the course of this year.
The helpline is staffed by local registered nurses and can help callers determine whether emergency or urgent care services are required. However, the government said that people who require help in areas where the helpline is not set up should call their local emergency service numbers.
In life-threatening emergencies, residents are advised to call the emergency number 112.
24.3 10:02 Ex-President Ahtisaari confirms coronavirus infection
Former President Martti Ahtisaari has tested positive for novel coronavirus, according to a statement from the Office of the President. Ahtisaari’s test results were confirmed on Monday.
Last Saturday the President’s office also confirmed that Ahtisaari’s wife Eeva was diagnosed with Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Both are 82 years old.
24.3 9:40 Newspaper reports offer of Chinese help
Morning newspapers in Finland continue to provide readers with a wide range of corornavirus-related news including a report in Iltalehti that China has offered Finland and Estonia help battle the epidemic.
Blog continues after photo.
23.3 18:23 Finland’s 100,000 layoffs may just be the beginning
To date, as the novel coronavirus crisis has upended businesses across Finland, many companies have announced temporary layoffs of a total of around 100,000 workers, according to figures from the ministry of employment.
If the public health emergency doesn’t improve or worsens, that figure could be much higher, according to the chief economist of the Federation of Finnish Enterprises, Mika Kuismanen.
“It is difficult to estimate, but if the corona-crisis escalates and prolongs it is not impossible that the numbers will double,” Kuismanen said.
Read the whole article here.
23.3 17:25 Viking Line to keep Turku-Stockholm ships running
Ferry firm Viking Line has said it will keep its Turku-Stockholm route running despite the coronavirus pandemic. Our story is here.
23.3 15:59 THL confirms 700 coronavirus cases in Finland
Finland had 700 lab-confirmed cases of novel coronavirus as of Monday afternoon, according to the Institute of Health and Welfare, THL.
THL said that 50 patients were receiving hospital treatment, with 13 in intensive care.
Sixty-one percent of the patients are male with the remaining 39 percent are female.
To date, Finland has confirmed one death due to a novel coronavirus infection.
23.3 14:51 Construction sector difficulties
It’s a difficult time for all sectors of the economy, but construction seems to be continuing. For now at least. Here’s a look at how the building trade expects to adapt to coronavirus.
23.3 13:14 Marin to close bars and restaurants
Prime Minister Sanna Marin confirmed on Monday that the government is preparing to implement more restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, such as ordering bars and restaurants to close and limiting movement. The leaders of the five government parties are to meet in the evening to discuss new measures.
Blog continues after photo.
23.3 12:06 Kulmuni looking to restrict movement
Finance Minister Katri Kulmuni told Yle on Monday morning that more restrictions on movement will probably be imposed in Finland, possibly on Monday or Tuesday.
23.3 9:15 Paper review up
Monday’s newspaper press continues to be focused on the corornavirus situation, with articles including questions about what possible travel restrictions within the country could mean in practice, and an appeal from local government leaders in Lapland for the government to order bars and nightclubs to shut down.
22.3 18:10 Finnair to bar passengers with Covid-19 symptoms from flights
National airline Finnair said on Sunday that it will not board passengers with Covid-19 symptoms. Covid-19 is the disease caused by novel coronavirus.
The airline is also calling on all passengers returning to Finland to isolate themselves for two weeks.
22.3 17:10 Restaurants call for gov’t bailout
Sweeping restrictions introduced to help slow the spread of novel coronavirus have hit restaurants hard, according to the hospitality industry lobby group, MaRa.
CEO Timo Lappi described the situation as “alarming” and noted that as of Sunday morning restaurants reported a drop in income of between 80 and 90 percent. Some restaurants have already gone out of business, he added.
“The government provided assistance last Friday, but in many restaurants the cash registers are running low. [Owners’] capital has evaporated. They can’t even afford to borrow. We need direct [financial] support from the state that we don’t have to pay back,” Lappi urged.
22.3. 16:45 Gov’t turns to influencers for help
The Finnish government has reached out to social media influencers to help disseminate facts about what to do during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The administrations hopes that familiar faces on social media will help make official information easier to understand. It also aims to share guidelines and to curb the possibility of rumour-mongering on social platforms.
22.3 15:50 Ex-President’s spouse tests positive for coronavirus
Eeva Ahtisaari, the wife of former President Martti Ahtisaari, has tested positive for novel coronavirus, according to the Office of the President.
Ahtisaari, who is 82, is said to be doing well, as is her husband. Martti Ahtisaari, who was president from 1994 to 2000, was also reportedly in good shape and was not exhibiting any signs of infection.
Blog continues after photo.
22.3 14:15 THL confirms 626 coronavirus cases
As of Sunday afternoon, Finland had 626 lab-confirmed cases of novel coronavirus, according to a fresh update from the Finnish institute of health and welfare, THL. The institute said that 105 new cases were diagnosed on Sunday.
THL said that 43 patients were receiving hospital treatment, with 12 of them in intensive care.
22.3 13:55 Finnair adds flights from Canary Islands, Turkey
National airline Finnair said on Sunday that starting Tuesday it will add more flights from vacation locations where Finnish citizens and residents may be stranded.
Flights will depart from Las Palmas and Tenerife in the Canary Islands as well as from Antalya in Turkey, the carrier said on Twitter.
Finnair was also scheduled to operate 11 additional flights from Malaga in Spain, the last of them on Sunday. On Wednesday, more Finns are due to return home from Alicante on a private flight.
22.3 13:30 Ski centres close early to head off visitor rush
Major ski centres in Lapland said they would close their doors to the public from Sunday, instead of next Friday as originally planned.
Operators said that the decision was taken amid reports that cars were queuing with visitors hoping to get in some ski action before the closures at the end of the week.
Ski centres in Ruka and Pyhätunturi initially indicated that they will remain open until next Saturday, 28 March. Update 15:55: Both ski centres later said on Sunday that they would close their slopes from Monday.
On Friday the Minister for Social Affairs and Health, Krista Kiuru, linked recent novel coronavirus infections to vacationers returning from Lapland, but did not name the resorts involved. The government has been aiming to suppress the spread of the virus.
An analysis of the spread of the diseases indicated the potential for thousands of fatalities, even in a best-case scenario.
Blog continues after graphic.
22.3 12:50 First cases in Åland Islands
The autonomous Åland Islands administration confirmed two novel coronavirus cases on Saturday.
Earlier this week the regional government recommended that people travelling into the region from mainland Finland and Sweden should self-quarantine for 14 days to prevent the spread of the disease.
The recommendation applies to passengers arriving in the region by boat or plane and also includes people arriving by the local archipelago ferry service provided by Ålandstrafiken from Kustavi or Galstby.
22.3 12:27 HUS confirms 71 new cases on Saturday
The Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district (HUS) confirmed on Sunday that a total of 71 people tested positive for novel cotonavirus on Saturday, bringing the total number of cases in the region to 378.
The number is the highest recorded in a single day and exceeds the 53 cases reported on Friday. The Pirkanmaa region reported six positive tests on Saturday, while the Åland Islands confirmed its first two infections and one case was diagnosed in the Kanta-Häme region the same day.
22.3 12:15 Nordic states in joint effort to fly stranded nationals home
Nordic governments have stepped up cooperation to evacuate nationals and permanent residents stuck abroad as countries close borders to tackle the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said the special flights will operate on a commercial basis — meaning that prospective passengers will have to purchase tickets to board them. “Governments will support and assist airlines by securing landing rights, for example,” Haavisto explained.
The minister said that Nordic governments may consider stepping in in the event that commercial flights are no longer available.
21.3 15:19 Finland announces first coronavirus death
Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported the country’s first coronavirus fatality on Saturday.
21.3 13:00 Yle expands language service for coronavirus news
Yle has started publishing coronavirus updates in Arabic, Kurdish, Somali and Persian.
21.3 11:30 PM: Finland prepared to restrict movement from Uusimaa
Speaking on Yle’s Ykkösaamu discussion programme on Saturday, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said her cabinet was prepared to restrict movement from the Uusimaa region to other parts of Finland should the infection rate worsen in the capital area.
20.3 19:01 Coronavirus cases linked to Lapland, ski resorts to close next week
Finland’s biggest ski resorts announced early closures on Friday after reports of two new coronavirus cases that were linked to resorts in Finnish Lapland. The big Lapland resorts are now to close on Friday 27 March, more than a month earlier than usual.
Reports also emerged that more than 20 doctors in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS) had to be quarantined after attending an orthopaedic and traumatology training day in Levi, Lapland in early March. A doctor who was diagnosed with coronavirus infection after the trip was present at the event.
20.3 16:59 Revised ruling: Pupils in grade 1-3 can go back to school
Pupils in grades 1-3 — whose parents want to send them back — will be able to go to school, Finland’s education ministry announced on Friday.
The decision reverses an emergency law declaration issued by government last week which said only students in that age group whose parents’ jobs are critical to the functioning of society were allowed to attend school, with the rest to receive tuition remotely.
The Ministry of Education and Culture emphasised that the updated policy does not make it mandatory for young students in that age group to go back to school. The government still recommends distance learning for all — including those in grades 1-3.
The change will take effect on Monday, March 23. Last Wednesday schools across the country closed their doors until 13 April.
20.3 16:15 Number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Finland rise to 450
As of Friday afternoon, there were 450 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus documented in Finland, according to THL, the Institute of Health and Welfare. The infection figure, which is 50 more than it was on Thursday, is based on lab-confirmed data from Finnish health districts collected by the health agency.
THL has previously said that restrictions on testing individuals for coronavirus infections can be seen in the relatively low infection rate and that the actual number of infections could be up to 30 times higher than the official number. The vast majority of infections have so far been detected in the capital region.
So far, no deaths have been attributed to the illness in Finland, while four patients are reportedly receiving intensive care treatment.
20.3 13:07 Govt bans Estonian workers from commuting to Finland
The Finnish government has issued a temporary ban on Estonians commuting to Finland to work — a new coronavirus-related rule that goes into effect on Sunday at midnight.
The ban affects a significant number of Estonians working in Finland’s construction industry.
During a press conference Friday morning, Finnish interior minister Maria Ohisalo said that Estonian workers were very important to Finland and called on as many of the workers as possible to stay in the country.
Ohisalo said that limiting commuting between the countries was a necessary measure to slow down the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, many construction projects in Finland are continuing and losing a number of Estonian workers would have negative effects on the sector, according to the head of the Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries RT, Aleksi Randell, news service STT reports.
20.3 11:35 Marin announces 15 billion euro support package
Finland is to pump 15 billion euros into supporting businesses and employment in an effort to stave off the worst effects of the coming recession.
Finland announced a support package worth some 15 billion euros to try and support businesses and individuals as the economy enters a downturn.
The broad range of measures announced on Friday aim to assist people and businesses suffering from the financial downturn as the coronavirus pandemic strengthens its grip on the world.
The government says the measures amount to some 15 billion euros in support, with some allocated to loan guarantees and some to labour market support.
The package of measures is expected to radically increase state debt in Finland, but Prime Minister Sanna Marin said that was a secondary consideration.
20.3 11:30 Government plans Finnair bailout
Finland is gearing up to grant a state guarantee of up to 600 million euros to national airline Finnair to help the firm weather the economic impacts of the coronavirus epidemic.
The Ministerial Committee on Economic Policy considered granting the guarantee in the form of a statutory pension premium on Thursday, but such a move still requires the approval of MPs.
20.3 11:15 Traveller stuck between Finland and Russia
On the Finnish border a resident of Russia is stuck, after trying to return to Russia after the Russian border closed on Wednesday because of the pandemic. There was a 24 hour delay after Russia closed its border to non-Russians before Finland closed its own frontier, leaving the traveller stranded.
Our story is here.
20.3 9:40 Nurses pay in the spotlight
Today’s press review is up. The stories include news that five people in Finland are in intensive care being treated for coronavirus, a debate about a new pay deal for nurses and the confirmation that Finland remains the happiest country in the world.
You can read the review here.
Blog continues after photo.
19.3 19:40 Finns ignore coronavirus warnings, head to ski resorts
Our story looks at how some Finns are keen to continue their holidays despite the coronavirus outbreak.
Many domestic tourists have extended their stay in Lapland, reveals Visit Levi’s CEO Yrjötapio Kivisaari.
“Reservations are being cancelled on the whole, but there are also those who have told us that now that they are working remotely, they can extend their ski holiday for a little longer.”
19.3 14:34 Approximately 400 confirmed coronavirus cases in Finland
As of 2pm Thursday, there were approximately 400 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus detected in Finland, according to THL, the Institute of Health and Welfare. The figure is based on lab-confirmed data from Finnish health districts collected by the health agency.
So far, there have been no deaths attributed to coronavirus infections in Finland.
The agency noted that the criteria for testing for coronavirus have changed, explaining that tests are primarily carried out on patients with severe respiratory symptoms as well as on health and social care workers.
THL said tests on individuals with mild symptoms and people who’ve returned from travel abroad will continue at the discretion of physicians. The agency also noted that people who do not have Covid-19 symptoms are not being tested.
19.3 14:15 HUS children’s ward nurse diagnosed with coronavirus
Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district has announced that a nurse working in the Children’s Cancer and Transplant Department has been diagnosed with novel coronavirus.
About 24 people have been exposed to the infection, two of whom are doctors. All those suspected of being exposed to the affected nurse have been moved to home quarantine.
19.3 13:55 Sickness allowance queries add to healthcare workers’ burden
There is ongoing confusion over who is eligible to receive Finland’s infectious disease sickness allowance, and queries from members of the public have been adding an extra burden on already overworked healthcare professionals.
In order to receive this particular allowance, an individual must be given a quarantine order by an infectious disease doctor employed by a municipality or hospital district. However, many people in “quarantine-like conditions” — for example, Finns returning from an affected area abroad — are not entitled to the allowance.
19.3 12:45 Elderly asked to stay indoors
Finland’s government urged people aged over 70 to stay indoors and avoid unnecessary social contact at a press briefing held on Thursday morning.
The government also announced other measures aimed at slowing the progress of Finland’s epidemic, such as the restricting of hospital visits, and requesting that children do not to play in groups. An information leaflet giving further guidance will be posted to all homes in Finland next week.
19.3 9:28 Paper review: Trousers requested as Dads help with the home-schooling
Today’s paper review includes news of a school near Tampere where teachers are pleading for Dads stuck at home to wear some trousers, as they are often in the background when kids are video conferencing with their teachers. Other stories include Olli Rehn asking for action from the European Central Bank and Finland’s border closure.
The full review is online here.
18.3 21:55 Furloughs spreading in Finland
Wrapping up the blog for today with our story on a rash of temporary lay-offs announced on Wednesday. Given the exceptional economic situation, unions are also considering easing the rules on furloughs which currently mean it takes five weeks of talks before companies can implement them.
Workers have to be paid by the company during that time. Once they are temporarily laid off in a furlough, they can claim income-linked benefits from their unemployment fund.
18.3 19:14 Finland’s cultural sector faces “severe crisis”
The national state of emergency has left thousands of artists, performers and technical staff — many of whom work as freelancers — facing difficulties.
18.3 16:33 Temporary layoffs in store for up to 1,630 Nokian Tyres workers in Finland
Finnish tyre manufacturer Nokian Tyres has announced it is entering discussions with employee representatives about planned temporary layoffs affecting around 1,630 company staff based in Finland.
In a release issued Wednesday, the company said the reason for the decision was due to a “decrease in the demand in the European car and tire market, which is due to the Covid-19 outbreak.”
The layoffs will last a maximum of 90 days per employee, according to the company.
The firm said it had also noted that the novel coronavirus outbreak had hampered the amount of work that was required in some of its operations.
The firm said the exact number of workers facing layoffs has not yet been determined and that the duration of temporary dismissals would be clarified during the redundancy negotiations, which are scheduled to begin on Thursday.
18.3 15:55 Finland has 359 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 3 in ICU
The Institute for Health and Welfare reported that there were 359 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Finland on Wednesday afternoon. Three patients are reportedly currently in intensive care. So far no deaths have been attributed to the disease.
18.3 14:36 Ministers explain new school rules
At today’s government press confernece, Education Minister Li Andersson explained how school and daycare would operate during Finland’s coronavirus emergency.
She reiterated that daycare centres are open, but parents should keep children home if possible, and that parents in jobs critical to the functioning of society can send their children to school in grades 1-3. All other teaching is to be done remotely.
Our write-up of the press conference is here.
18.3 13:05 Taxis start delivering groceries to holed-up residents in capital region
Demand for taxi rides in the capital area have plummeted as the coronavirus epidemic has developed, but local taxi firms are finding ways to make up for those losses, by delivering groceries.
Cabonline, which operates taxi firms Kovanen and FixuTaxi, has already started grocery home delivery services in the Helsinki area. Meanwhile, the Taxi Helsinki and Lähitaksi companies said they were negotiating with local stores to also begin deliveries from supermarkets.
According to Cabonline’s CEO, Kati Rajala, the number of taxi rides have dropped by 80-90 percent in the past few days.
18.3 13:03 S-Group closes Helsinki region restaurants over coronavirus
The S-Group has announced that it will close all 82 of its restaurants in the Helsinki region from Monday 23 March as it joins Finland’s efforts to enact social distancing policies to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Around 800 workers from the restaurants will move to the cooperative’s nearly 200 supermarkets and shops to help deal with increased demand for the company’s grocery products, said the statement.
Finland has banned gatherings of more than ten people, but so far has exempted cafes and restaurants from the ruling.
18.3 11:25 Bankruptcy fears on the rise
Many companies in Finland fear the coronavirus has significantly increased the likelihood of bankruptcy, according to the results of a survey conducted by the Finland Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber has called on the government to take more “tough action” as the five billion euro support package announced on Tuesday is not sufficient.
18.3 10:35 Football postponement welcome
Among all the cancellations and postponements prompted by the pandemic, moving the European Championships back a year was one of the biggest disappointments for many Finns.
Finland captain Tim Sparv says it’s the ‘right and responsible decision’ in light of the current situation, however, and hopes that fans will be able to enjoy the matches in 2021 without fear of coronavirus.
There’s more detail in our story.
18.3 9:15 Good news in Jyväskylä
Today’s press review is up, and it includes good news for doctors in Jyväskylä. Some 50 health workers can return to work after a person they were exposed to tested negative for coronavirus.
17.3 19:07 Analysis: Coronavirus could put 6,000 in hospital
An analysis based on modelling the spread of novel coronavirus in Finland suggests the need for aggressive measures to slow the spread of the disease to blunt its impact on the public healthcare system.
On Tuesday the government published an analysis projecting the impact of the spread of the virus
on the healthcare system. It concluded that even if the virus doesn’t hit hard and just 20 percent of Finnish residents are infected, that would place between 4,300 and 11,000 people in hospital.
If 40 percent contract the disease caused by the virus, Covid-19, that would mean between 8,600 and 22,000 people requiring hospital care over the course of the outbreak.
The analysis was developed by university hospitals in Turku and Tampere as well as by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, THL.
17.3 18:40 Helsinki’s trams, metro switch early to summer schedule
Helsinki’s transport authority HSL announced that the city’s tram and metro lines will run less often than normal for this time of year, starting on Wednesday 18 March, due to staff shortages caused by an increase in employees being on sick leave.
The changes to the metro line will also affect commuters in the neighbouring city of Espoo.
Starting on Wednesday, the city’s metro lines will run according to the same timetable that was used last summer – in other words from 6:30am-8pm weekdays and 10am-8pm on Saturdays. Meanwhile, trams will begin running according to Saturday timetables.
Passengers are encouraged to check HSL’s journey planner for more schedule information.
17.3 17:33 Govt orders limit on sales of drugs and medical supplies
The government has moved to adopt a raft of emergency measures to safeguard medicines and medical supplies to help stave off the spread of novel coronavirus in Finland.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said that two emergency regulations will be activated, one of them as a matter of urgency.
The critical measure will limit the sale of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals used in the public healthcare system. It will remain in force until 13 April.
The second regulation relates to the social and health care system and its management. It relieves municipalities of the duty to provide residents with timely non-emergency care in accordance with the law and to manage professionals’ hours of work, their work obligations and to organise training for staff. This measure takes effect from Wednesday 18 March.
17.3 16:37 Viking Line suspends Helsinki-Stockholm passenger route
Finnish cruise line firm Viking Line announced on Tuesday that it will temporarily suspend operations of its Helsinki-Stockholm route from 18 March until 13 April, due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
The temporary suspension affects the company’s passenger ferries M/S Mariella and M/S Gabriella. Mariella will make its final journey back to Helsinki on Tuesday evening, while Gabriella will sail from Stockholm for the last time before the break on Wednesday.
Viking Line said it would continue trafficking from Turku on routes to Åland and Stockholm in order to secure freight transports and supply chains. The firm noted that it plans to continue running its route from Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia six days per week.
17.3 16:25 Virus could linger in Finland until summer
Turku University epidemiology statistics professor Kari Auranen says the first wave of the novel coronavirus epidemic could last at least three months in Finland.
If officials had not responded to the epidemic and it were allowed to spread, models show that the disease would have swept across the country as a strong wave that would have lasted for two to three months. In that case, it would reach its peak the first week of April. Up to half of Finland’s population would be infected, but the majority of cases would be mild.
But now that the government has taken action to thwart the spread of the virus, the statistical models project that the epidemic will weaken but take longer to run its course, according to Auranen.
17.3 14:15 Finland’s coronavirus case count reaches 319
Health authorities confirmed 319 cases of novel coronavirus in Finland on Tuesday afternoon. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL said that officials had been able to verify the cause of infection in most of the cases. The agency said that most of the cases diagnosed in Finland involved only mild symptoms but noted that hospital care was required in some instances.
THL said that Finland is preparing for a broader epidemic, which is expected to advance at different rates in various parts of the country. So far the highest number of cases have been identified in the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district in southern Finland.
17.3 13:35 VR pares down services, suspends Russia trains
State railway firm VR said Tuesday that it is scaling back passenger services from mid-April as it grapples with a collapse in passenger numbers due to fears over coronavirus.
VR said passenger numbers have tumbled by 60 percent across local and long-distance networks, but it intends to continue running the most important long-distance and local trains. The rail provider added that it will suspend passenger rail services to Russia, at least until 13 April.
17.3 13:20 Firms brace for negative fallout
Finnish retail chain Stockmann said on Tuesday that it was looking at temporary layoffs of its entire staff. The troubled firm has been facing financial headwinds and said that it would begin discussions on the move to furlough workers next Monday.
“Stockmann is adjusting its personnel resources due to weakened demand and will launch co-determination talks about temporarily layoff of staff,” it said in a statement.
Meanwhile a separate survey by the private sector business lobby EK indicates that around 40 percent of businesses in Finland said that they would probably resort to temporary layoffs or outright payroll cuts due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. A slightly larger proportion said they could survive the situation without cutting staff or their hours of work.
The survey was conducted last week and interviewed 780 entrepreneurs and business directors. Nearly 90 percent of respondents said that the pandemic would have a negative impact on their operations.
17.3 11:37 Etla estimates coronavirus hit
The Etla think take thinks that the Finnish economy could shrink by five percent as a result of coronavirus. Our story here.
“According to these analyses, between January and February, China’s economy shrank by up to 13 percent, but during March it already recovered. We assume that Europe and Finland will not adopt equally robust measures to prevent the spread of the virus, so the economy will not slow as much, but the impact of the virus will be longer-lasting,” Etla CEO Aki Kangasharju said in a statement.
17.3 9:55 Paper review up
There’s only one story in today’s newspaper review. We look at reaction to the government’s announcement yesterday, and how mutual aid groups are helping people at-risk from coronavirus to get their shopping and run other essential errands while Finland shuts down much of society.
16.3 22:17 President Niinistö: “We all need each other”
Wrapping up the blog for today with a bit from President Sauli Niinistö, who said that the coming months will see some hardship but that Finns will get through this situation.
We’ll be back tomorrow with more on the coming shutdowns across Finnish society.
16.3 22:10 Economic support package
Added a little bit more to the story on this afternoon’s press conference, where Finance Minister Katri Kulmuni announced a raft of measures to try and mitigate some of the economic damage.
“Traditionally the Finance Ministry is strict with the money, but we are living in an emergency situation,” said Kulmuni. “This isn’t the fault of a single entrepreneur or worker.”
The ministry will pump five billion euros into a support package for businesses, alongside support for municipalities and social and healthcare spending.
In addition to the state action, banks also said they would be ready to offer private customers repayment holidays, during which only interest would be paid on mortgages.
16.3 17:42 Long list of closures
This is the first time the government has activated emergency powers legislation, and the number of restrictions is huge. In addition to schools and universities, the government also banned gatherings of more than ten people and closed museums, theatres, the national opera, libraries, mobile libraries, hobby facilities and swimming pools, youth clubs and other gathering points and recommended that third sector organisations and religious congregations do the same.
The government is also closing the borders and urging all Finnish citizens currently abroad to return to Finland immediately.
16.3 17:10 State of emergency declared, schools to close
The government has declared a state of emergency. Cabinet ministers announced a raft of measures including closure of all schools, libraries, museums, theatres, sports facilities among others. More details here as they emerge.
16.3 16:50 PM Marin and ministers begin press conference
A long-delayed press conference by cabinet ministers began at 4:50pm in Helsinki.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin began by introducing the other ministers behind the podiums: Finance Minister Katri Kulmuni, Minister of Social Affairs and Health Aino-Kaisa Pekonen, Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru, Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson and Education Minister Li Andersson.
Also expected to participate were top-ranking civil servants from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Ministry of Education, as well as the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).
16.3 16:38 Presidents Niinistö and Putin discuss border implications
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed the coronavirus situation by phone conversation on Monday.
According to Niinistö’s office, “the Presidents discussed the situation created by the coronavirus and its implications for the Finnish-Russian border. Both agreed that the containment of the virus called for broad-based international cooperation. President Niinistö underlined the importance of an ongoing exchange of information.”
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The statement adds that the call was initiated by Finland.
According to the Kremlin press service, “the sides have agreed that possible decisions on border checkpoints operation would be taken in close cooperation between relevant services and agencies.”
“Niinistö also underscored the importance of information sharing,” according the news agency Tass.
16.3 16:31 Gov press conference due to begin
Five key ministers from the centre-left government led by Prime Minister Sanna Marin were scheduled to begin a press conference around 4.15pm on Monday. The event was originally to have been held at 2pm and then at 4pm, but still was not underway by 4.45.
Yle will broadcast the event live via TV1 and Areena. Yle has learned that the cabinet has been considering the closure of all schools in Finland among other measures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
16.3 16:05 Tallink suspends Helsinki-Tallinn Europa route
Estonian-based shipping firm Tallink Group announced on Monday that it was temporarily suspending operations of its Tallinn-Helsinki route on the company’s Silja Europa passenger ferry.
The firm said the decision to suspend the route was due to the ongoing coronavirus situation as well as new border restrictions which the Estonian government has announced.
Estonia will introduce border controls forbidding foreign travellers to enter the country on Tuesday, 17 March, in an effort to reduce the spread of novel coronavirus, according to Estonian public broadcaster ERR.
“Silja Europa will make its final trips on Monday, 16 March according to the vessel’s normal schedule, but only passengers with a one way ticket will be allowed to travel on the 18.30 departure from Helsinki to Tallinn. From 17 March 2020 Silja Europa will remain in Port of Tallinn until further notice from the company,” Tallink said in a statement issued Monday.
Cargo transport between Estonia and Finland, as well as between Sweden and Estonia, will continue, according to ERR.
From Tuesday onward, the company said maritime transport between Finland and Estonia will continue to “ensure Estonians are able to travel back to Estonia via Finland from neighbouring countries and so that residents of neighbouring countries could use Estonia as a transit country to get home.”
According to ERR, foreign nationals will be permitted to transit through Estonia on the way to their home countries as long as they do not have novel coronavirus symptoms.
16.3 15:48 Reports: Finland to close schools to slow spread of coronavirus
The Finnish government is expected to announce the closure of schools across the country to prevent the spread of coronavirus, according to media sources including newspapers Hämeen Sanomat and Helsingin Sanomat, however Yle was unable to confirm these plans.
According to information obtained by Yle, closing schools is one of the measures the government is considering to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori, announced on Sunday that the city intended to maintain its position that schools and daycare centres will not close.
A handful of schools as well as universities and other institutions across the country have closed down on-site operations at their own discretion.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin and several other ministers are scheduled to hold a press conference at 4pm Monday.
16.3 14:51 THL infection toll rises to 272, gov announcement at 4pm
The national health institute THL said on Monday afternoon that the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Finland had risen to 272 as of 1.20pm.
It said that 149 of these cases were in the Helsinki-Uusimaa (HUS) hospital district, which covers 24 southern municipalities. They are home to nearly a third of the country’s population. HUS’s own website listed 148 cases as of Sunday.
Meanwhile the Finnish government has been meeting on Monday to decide on the next moves to slow the spread of the disease. Ministers were to have held a press conference at 2pm, but that has been postponed until around 4pm. The event will be streamed live via Yle Areena.
16.3 13:41 Elementary school in Mikkeli quarantined
Pupils and affected staff from the Urpola elementary school in the municipality of Mikkeli were ordered into quarantine starting on Monday morning. The school board made the decision at 10:30pm on Sunday.
While teaching will not take place at the school, the institution said pupils would receive further instructions via the communications platform Wilma.
In an announcement, the school said since the decision to close the facility was made so late that the school would care for students who arrived on Monday and would receive meals. The institution said the school was cleaned on Sunday and that staff who are on-site had not been in close contact with any infected individuals.
The school said it would announce plans about the expected duration of the quarantine later on Monday.
16.3 12:55 Vantaa health clinic shuttered due to infections
The local health care clinic in Martinlaakso, Vantaa has closed due to novel coronavirus infections of the facility’s workers as well as clients, according to the city of Vantaa, the news agency STT reports.
The city’s communicable diseases unit will track and reach out to all of the individuals who may have been exposed to the virus.
The health centre was closed on Monday and will remain shuttered for at least a few days, and during that time the facility will be disinfected, according to the city, which added that it would not be possible to book appointments during the closure.
After it reopens, the clinic will become Vantaa’s dedicated coronavirus clinic. The city said more information would be made available in coming days.
16.3 12:15 HUS treats first coronavirus patient in ICU
For the first time since the outbreak, a coronavirus patient has been transferred to an intensive care unit (ICU) at Helsinki University Hospital district (HUS), according to a hospital release issued on Monday. The patient was the first in Finland to require ICU treatment for Covid-19.
The patient is a pensioner and initially received care in a regular ward at the hospital, according to the release.
The hospital district noted that a small proportion of novel coronavirus infections require ICU treatment and that around 70-75 percent of its acute care bed spaces are continuously occupied.
“When necessary we can increase the space available at the intensive care unit by delaying scheduled non-emergency surgeries requiring postoperative intensive care,” the hospital’s chief physician, Ville Pettilä, said in the release, adding that HUS has not yet needed to take such measures.
16.3 11:29 Finnair slashing capacity by 90% from 1 April
Finnair announced Monday that it will reduce its normal capacity by approximately 90 percent from the beginning of April. The reduced flight schedule will be in effect until the coronavirus situation improves. As of 1 April, the flag carrier will temporarily operate only around 20 routes, which it says will ensure certain critical air and cargo supply connections.
16.3 9:38 Bank of Finland putting up 500 million euros
Finnish newspapers continue to focus on measures dealing with the novel coronavirus, including moves by the Bank of Finland to support businesses and household finances. More on this and other developments in our Monday press review.
15.3 19:50 Helsinki to keep schools, daycares open
The Finnish capital said on Sunday that it would ramp up distance learning for upper comprehensive and upper secondary school students, but it is holding the line on keeping schools and daycares open. Speaking at a press conference on Sunday evening, mayor Jan Vapaavuori said that there is no evidence that closing schools significantly slows the spread of novel coronavirus.
The city also rolled out other measures aimed at protecting risk groups, including limiting visits to senior homes and hospitals as well as to facilities for disabled persons. Meanwhile the city has prohibited events involving more than 20 people and called on customer service staff to deal with the public online or by phone.
15.3 17:58 Patrons abandon museums
The novel coronavirus outbreak made inroads into visitor numbers in popular museums in Helsinki. Locations such as art museums Amos Rex and Ateneum art museum as well as modern art museum Kiasma all reported that patronage had fallen by as much as two-thirds on Saturday.
Helsinki’s wildly popular new central library Oodi also felt the impact of the virus, reporting just half the usual number of visitors.
15.3 17:15 Southwest Finland municipality closes all schools
The 10,000-resident municipality of Huittinen in western Finland has closed all of its local schools, advising students to switch to distance learning, due to the novel coronavirus outbreak in Finland. The city said that school closures have proven to be an effective measure to prevent and slow the spread of the virus.
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Starting from Monday, 16 March, all primary, middle and upper secondary schools will provide distance education and students will study at home. The closures will last for two weeks initially, but officials say they are prepared to continue it, if needed.
So far, Huittinen is the only municipality known to have closed all schools because of the outbreak. City officials justified the measure by saying that they were aiming to prevent the spread of the disease in the city.
15.3 16:30 Central Finland grocery offers special opening hours for coronavirus risk groups
K-market franchise owners Ilpo and Heli Romppanen have decided to provide people at high risk of serious illness from novel coronavirus with dedicated shopping hours.
Starting at 6am on Monday, the store will only serve people who fall into this category for one hour before regular business hours on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
“We decided that one of us will open the store, prepare the cash register and let customers in. Not everything in the store will be in tip-top shape at 6am, but customers may not even notice,” Ilpo Romppanen said.
The special hours are also intended to serve customers whose close relatives belong to risk groups. Many of these people are more concerned about spreading infection than about getting infected themselves.
The decision to introduce the exclusive shopping hours was taken after the couple ran a Facebook poll on the issue.
15.3 16:10 Helsinki to reduce non-emergency health appointments
The city of Helsinki will reduce appointments for non-emergency cases starting Monday 16 March, according to mayor Jan Vapaavuori. Some non-emergency appointments that have already been made will also be cancelled, Vapaavuori said on Twitter (in Finnish).
The mayor also said that the city will organise an open info session for city residents and employees at 6.30pm on Sunday. At that time, city officials will provide an update on new decisions and recommendations regarding the novel coronavirus outbreak.
15.3 14:55 More flight cancellations from Finnair
On Sunday afternoon national carrier Finnair said on Twitter that it had cancelled a number of flights due to travel restrictions imposed by other countries. The airline said that it had scrubbed flights to Vilnius, Hong Kong and Madrid starting from Monday 16 March.
It also announced that its last flight to Barcelona for the foreseeable future would leave on Tuesday 17 March, and added that additional changes might come at short notice.
15.3 13:02 Online shoppers begin hoarding food
Major food retailers S-Group and Kesko both say they’ve seen a sharp spike in the number of customers using their online stores to buy up food items during the past week, following a steep rise in novel coronavirus infections in Finland last week.
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S-Group reported twice or three times the normal number of visitors, while Kesko said that shoppers mostly filled their baskets with toilet tissue, preserves and dry goods. Both chains said they plan to hire more staff to collect and deliver grocery orders if the situation worsens.
15.3 12:00 Stricter testing criteria in HUS region
The Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district in southern Finland said on Sunday that it was changing its novel coronavirus testing strategy. The regional health authority said that it was focusing tests on health care professionals and that not all members of the public presenting with symptoms would necessarily be tested for the disease.
Infectious diseases medical chief of staff Asko Järvinen told Yle that it no longer makes sense to track the number of diagnosed cases because of the new approach to testing. He added that for example, persons returning from trips abroad would not necessarily be tested for infection.
New infections in the HUS region were said to be 22 (updated) on Sunday. The total number of infections in Finland by mid-day Sunday had reached 241, while the Finnish institute for health and welfare THL reported 30 new infections nationwide on Sunday. (Updated at 17.53 on Sunday).
14.3 22:22 Foreign Ministry updates advice, some schools to teach remotely
Wrapping up the blog for the day. The number of cases has crept up to 223, and the Foreign Ministry has updated its travel advice to urge Finns to avoid all travel outside of Finland.
Schools in some parts of Finland will be teaching pupils remotely from Monday in response to the crisis. Our story on that development is here.
On Sunday government leaders are set to meet to discuss implementing emergency powers, which could bring in further restrictions on daily life in an effort to slow the progression of the outbreak in Finland.
14.3 16:20 Gov leaders meet on Sunday amid first steps on Emergency Powers Act
Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Twitter on Saturday afternoon that the leaders of the five government parties will meet on Sunday to discuss “necessary further measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus and protect risk groups”.
She added that the full cabinet will convene on Monday.
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“I have also begun preparations for an order to implement the Emergency Powers Act, so that it can be given quickly if need be. The government will not consider the Emergency Powers Act on Monday. We are, however, preparing for everything,” the premier said.
The cabinet meeting may focus on efforts to ‘flatten the curve’: that is, to delay and spread out the peak in coronavirus infections so that the healthcare system is not overloaded. This graphic demonstrates how that might play out.
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14.3 14:57 All returning to Finland to be warned by SMS
All residents of Finland returning to the country as of Saturday are to be greeted with an official mobile phone message about the coronavirus outbreak in Finnish and Swedish.
The government said on Saturday that it had reached agreement with the country’s mobile operators and the Emergency Response Centre to implement the measure.
The message says that those arriving from abroad should agree with work, study or daycare sites to stay away for a recommended period of 14 days. It also directs recipients to the Institute for Health and Welfare website (THL.fi) for more information.
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“This text message service will give authorities a channel to send up-to-date information directly to people’s phones in the future as well,” Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka said in a statement.
14.3 14:36 Defence Forces announce 2nd case
The Finnish Defence Forces (FDF) said on Saturday that a second staff member has been diagnosed with Covid-19. The individual returned last weekend from an epidemic area. All employees who were in close contact with the patient have been reached and given instructions on issues such as distance work, the FDF said..
14.3 13:57 Finnair cancels more European flights
National carrier Finnair said on Saturday that it is grounding all flights to Denmark and Norway 17-31 March, to Russia and the Czech Republic 16-31 March and to Poland from Sunday through the end of March. “New restrictions might come on short notice,” the airline added in a tweet.
14.3 13:40 THL says 210 cases confirmed by labs
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) said on Saturday afternoon that 210 cases of the Covid-19 disease have been confirmed at labs in the country. It says that most cases have been mild. So far no deaths have been attributed to the illness.
The THL reports 105 cases in the Helsinki and Uusimaa region, but the HUS hospital district, which covers the region, reports 117 on Saturday. In any case, this is by far the highest number in the country. The Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District, which includes Oulu, was second with 25 cases.
14.3 13:16 HUS infectious diseases chief: No need to invoke Emergency Powers Act
Asko Järvinen, head of the infectious diseases division of Helsinki University Hospital (HUS), says he sees no need to declare a state of emergency in Finland. He was interviewed on Yle’s Ykkösaamu current affairs programme on Saturday.
“At the moment I don’t see any use or need to invoke the Emergency Powers Act. After all, the disease is not spreading freely here at the moment,” Järvinen said.
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14.3 12:36 HUS reports 48 more cases since Friday
The HUS Helsinki University Hospital district reported 48 new confirmed cases of the new coronavirus on Friday and Saturday, for a total of 117. It expected the number to rise on Saturday as the latest results continued to come in.
The number of new diagnoses in the region rose by 1-4 per day until Tuesday, when 11 cases were confirmed. That was followed by 14 on Wednesday, 23 on Thursday and 36 on Friday, mirroring the type of exponential growth seen elsewhere. As of midday on Saturday, HUS reported a dozen new cases but underlined that this was an incomplete figure.
HUS is Finland’s largest health care provider. Its district covers 24 municipalities in the densely-populated Uusimaa region. They have a total population of some 1.7 million people, or nearly a third of the country’s population.
The national health institute THL is expected to update the national tally later on Saturday.
14.3 10:51 Foreign Ministry: Emergency hotline overloaded
The Finnish Foreign Ministry asks that the public not to call or email its emergency centre with non-critical travel questions. In a tweet late Friday, the ministry said that many people have been contacting its emergency centre to ask about travel restrictions imposed by various countries as a result of the coronavirus situation.
It urged would-be travellers to contact their tour operators, insurance companies or airlines, and to only contact the ministry’s hotline in emergency situations.
14.3 10:33 THL: Stay home with mild symptoms
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) is urging anyone with mild cold or flu-like symptoms to stay home, freeing up healthcare resources to treat those are seriously ill.
“If you have mild respiratory tract infection symptoms, such as rhinitis, cough, throat pain, muscle pain, or fever, stay at home to rest and recuperate. Stay home until the symptoms go away,” the institute said in a statement.
“Avoid contact with others if you have symptoms of respiratory infection. Do not go to work or school when sick, and do not take sick children to day care or to the grandparents. That way, you are helping protect the elderly and people who are susceptible to coronavirus because of their primary disease,” says THL Director Mika Salminen. The THL operates under the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
13.3 21:40 New case confirmed in Häme
One more case of coronavirus was confirmed this evening in Päijät-Häme. The patient is in good health and quarantined at home, and all their close contacts have been traced. That brings the total of confirmed cases in Finland to 156 on Friday.
Meanwhile the Finnish hockey league has announced that its season will end now with no champion declared, while the men’s football league Veikkausliiga is set to delay its start date until at least June. The women’s National League will also delay its start date.
Other sporting events and hobbies are being cancelled across the country in the wake of the government’s decision to shut down any gathering of more than 500 people.
We’re wrapping up the blog for now but will be back to update here tomorrow.
13.3 18:56 Officials warn of fake school closure messages
The Council of State warned via Twitter on Friday afternoon that a fake message about school closures was making the rounds on Snapchat. The social media app is popular among children and teens in Finland.
An image being spread widely was purportedly a screenshot of an article from the Yle site saying that the government had decided to close all schools and daycare centres in Finland as of 13 March.
“No such decision has been made and the image is a forgery,” the government said in the tweet, urging that word be passed on to Snapchat users.
Some towns and individual schools have decided on closures, but no national decision has been made.
13.3 17:50 Layoffs at Valmet car plant
Valmet Automotive says it will begin temporary furloughs of employees at its automotive plant in Uusikaupunki, southwest Finland. Workers will be placed on unpaid leave for up to 90 days at a time.
The company says a shortage of components due to the coronovirus situation is hampering production. It says it expects the situation to return to normal during this spring.
The layoffs will not affect its battery plant in Salo for now. The Uusikaupunki factory manufactures Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
13.3 16:48 Finnish military service member has coronavirus
For the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, the Finnish Defence Forces announced on Friday that a member of the armed forces had tested positive for the illness.
The agency said a handful of people had been in contact with the infected individual, including one conscript, according to current available information.
13.3 16:40 Veikkaus games shutting down temporarily
Finland’s gambling monopoly firm Veikkaus announced that it will shut down all of its betting machines and close all of its outlets across the country until the end of March, in an effort to reduce the spread of novel coronavirus.
The firm’s betting machines mostly feature touch screens and can be found in nearly every supermarket, bar and kiosk in the country. As of September, the firm had around 21,500 slot machines around the country.
Veikkaus said it was also cancelling all planned customer events for the time being, and that the break would not lead to layoffs at the company.
13.3 16:21 HUS raises bar for coronavirus testing
The Helsinki University Hospital district (HUS) announced Friday afternoon it was tightening criteria for carrying out novel coronavirus tests.
The hospital recommended that people suffering from respiratory tract illness symptoms but who are otherwise in good condition should stay at home for a week – and not call emergency services.
However, HUS said it would continue to test patients who require hospitalisation and those who have pneumonia. The facility will also test symptomatic health care workers, senior citizens and symptomatic individuals who are quarantined, according to the hospital.
13.3 12:15 Trains quieter than usual
Finland’s state railway firm VR said that passenger numbers on Friday were well down on normal numbers for both local and long-distance services.
“This is probably down to the coronavirus news and people favouring remote working,” said VR communications director Tatu Tuominen. “It’s also the start of the weekend, but of course the general situation also affects this.”
VR did not have precise figures on Friday’s situation, but according to Tuominen trains are quieter than normal across the country.
VR has not yet cancelled any services, but has not decided on any possible changes in the coming weeks.
“Next week will provide an indication of how sustained the reduction in passengers is,” said Tuominen. “Trains are cleaned every day and staff have face masks available as well as gloves to protect them from coronavirus.”
13.3 11:41 Coronavirus cases mapped
The number of cases is on the rise, and it can be difficult to keep track. Tampere-based software developer Lovell D’souza has created this map to keep track of the number and location of new cases.
13.3 10:48 THL: Finland close to epidemic threshold, 155 cases confirmed
At a press conference this morning THL announced that there are now 155 confirmed cases in Finland, and that the country is approaching the threshold to define the outbreak as an epidemic.
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13.3 10:30 HUS nurse tests positive
A nurse employed at the Helsinki University Hospital district (HUS) has tested positive for novel coronavirus, the hospital announced on Friday morning.
The nurse, who works at the hospital’s youth psychiatric unit, had returned to Finland from Tirol, Austria on 1 March. Since Finland’s health agency THL only classified the Tirol area as a coronavirus epidemic region on 9 March – more than a week later – the nurse did not think an infection was possible.
However, the nurse was on the job for three days, due to mostly being on sick leave since returning from the trip. Some 33 HUS staff members from the youth psychiatry unit who may have been exposed to the virus are now in home quarantine.
13.3 10:03 Pekonen defends school closure policy
The Minister for Social Affairs and Health, Aino-Kaisa Pekonen, appeared on Yle’s breakfast television show this morning. Among other things she answered the criticism that Finland should have closed schools and daycare centres, as some other countries have done to try and slow down the spread of the virus.
Finland on Thursday banned events for more than 500 people, but stopped short of stricter measures.
“Schools and daycare centres are different from big gatherings because in schools kids are in their own classes and in daycare centres their own groups,” said Pekonen.
“Of course according to the guidelines big events should not be organised by schools.”
She said that the government and all parliamentary parties were ready to enact tighter controls if the situation demands it.
13.3 9:33 Newspapers cover stockpiling
Today’s paper review is once again dominated by the coronavirus outbreak, with stories about the government reaction, stockpiling in shops and the possible cancellation of Euro2020.
You can read the review here.
12.3 23:05 Niinistö: Flattening the curve ‘extremely important’
President Sauli Niinistö said in an Yle interview that the coronavirus outbreak was unprecedented for Finland.
“This is something that we haven’t experienced before,” said Niinistö. “It affects individuals, families, communities and the whole society. Our habits will change and I think that a lot of our ways of thinking will change too.”
Niinistö stressed that Finns should support each other during the outbreak, and ‘see beyond their own navels’.
He also said he was confident the Finnish healthcare system was high quality, but could come under strain in the coming days and weeks.
´”But if the number of infections gets really huge, there will of course be question marks,” said the president. “That’s why the much talked-about flattening is extremely important. It’s really clear that the total number will rise considerably, but it’s a different question as to whether the curve is explosive growth or a gentler trajectory.”
12.3 21:07 How do gig workers manage self-isolation?
Wrapping up the blog for today, but we’ll leave you with some listening material. This week’s All Points North podcast takes a look at how gig workers might handle the social distancing that experts think is required to fight coronavirus. How do people decide between getting well and getting paid?
Story continues after audio.
12.3 21:05 Cancellations roll in
We’ve put together a far-from exhaustive list of the cancellations and changes to events in light of the government’s announcement that large gatherings should be cancelled. You can check out that roundup here.
12.3 16:57 Government announces new measures to fight coronavirus
At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Finland’s government recommended that organisers of large events cancel them in an effort to fight the spread of novel coronavirus.
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Any event with more than 500 people should be cancelled, and organisers of smaller events have been urged to consider scrapping those as well, according to Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
“Citizens should monitor and comply with travel advisories and must file travel notifications if they must travel. Additionally, major events will be cancelled and of course in their own daily lives, people would do well to especially consider others belonging to risk groups and non-essential activities should also be avoided — such as hobbies for example,” Marin declared.
12.3 16:46 Forssa middle school closes due to coronavirus exposure
On Wednesday morning Forssa middle school was closed after a student’s father tested positive for the coronavirus.
The child had attended classes at the beginning of the week and come into close contact with about 50 people, many of whom are staff members. The school made the decision to close for 14 days and all of those who had come in contact with the child were placed under home quarantine.
”There’s no need for panic, but the coronavirus and its spread should be taken very seriously,” said regional medical director Sally Järvelä in a press release.
12.3 14:08 Finland’s confirmed coronavirus cases reach 109
The number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Finland has reached 109, according to a mid-afternoon announcement by the Institute for National Health and Welfare on Thursday.
The health watchdog said there had been an increase of 50 new confirmed cases around the country. The majority of the new cases were in the capital region as well as in northern Ostrobothnia, in western Finland.
12.3 13:41 Foreign ministry advises against all travel abroad
The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs on Thursday advised against all travel abroad. The ministry said the risk of contracting novel coronavirus has increased in Europe and around the world.
The ministry said, going forward, it would not issue country-specific travel advisories anymore, saying that people should be exercising caution everywhere they go.
As the coronavirus situation is changing rapidly, it is likely that more countries will begin implementing travel or entry bans and restrictions. For example, some nations in which Finnish citizens could previously enter without visas are now requiring them, according to the ministry.
12.3 12:15 Doctors cancel Tampere meeting
A doctors’ conference in Tampere, which was set to host 3,000 physicians from all over Finland, has been cancelled.
Organisers had asked for guidance from the authorities on whether or not to go ahead, given the implications of being forced to quarantine a large chunk of Finland’s doctors.
Yle’s story (in Finnish) is here.
12.3 12:05 THL to stop classifying regions as ‘epidemic areas’
Finland is to stop classifying countries and regions as coronavirus ‘epidemic areas’.
The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) said in a statement that the virus was now so widespread that the chance to catch it was elevated in many countries in Europe and the United States.
Mika Salminen of THL was quoted as saying that Finland would still conduct contact tracing and try to break chains of infection, especially in areas of the country that had been untouched by the outbreak.
12.3 11:39 Terveystalo announces €195 tests
Private healthcare firm Terveystalo have announced they will offer testing for coronavirus, at a cost of 195 euros per test. The company plans to offer outdoor, drive-in testing locations.
The fee for the test is not eligible for any contribution from Kela, Finland’s social insurance institution, which normally funds some of the cost of medicines.
The full Yle story (in Finnish) is here.
12.3 11:20 Healthcare worker tests positive
A worker at the Helsinki University Hospital District has tested positive for coronavirus. More on that story here.
12.3 10:35 Trump travel ban reaction
We’ve published a story on the US travel ban announced overnight, which is being updated. For now we have some reaction on the economic implications.
New York-based financial analyst Tero Kuittinen told Yle that Trump’s decision to allow flights to and from the US to the UK but not continental Europe had “no logical explanation.”
Read the story here.
12.3 9:10 Trump travel ban and Finland response
Today’s paper review has a look at the media response to Finland’s decision to delay introducing social distancing measures.
“Within a week at the latest Finland will move to an emergency situation for the first time since the second world war,” argues one column.
Read the review here.
12.3 7:32 Marin says ‘listen to the experts’
Overnight US President Donald Trump announced a ban on travel from EU countries in the Schengen area (including Finland) to the United States, arguing that they ‘had not done enough’ to fight coronavirus.
Meanwhile two more cases were added to the total since our last update, bringing the number to 65.
Last night Prime Minister Sanna Marin appeared on Yle’s A-Studio programme and defended the government’s response. She said it was not yet time to start extensive social distancing measures.
“We are acting on the basis of the health authorities’ recommendations,” said Marin. “If the THL recommends for example that we limit large gatherings, of course I believe that the government would quickly be ready to do that.”
11.3 21:27 Teachers and health and social care workers to stay home
Wrapping up the blog for today with an update on the numbers: 23 new cases were confirmed on Wednesday. That leaves the total at 63, a rise of more than 50 percent in one day.
In other news, teachers have been advised to stay away from work for a week on their return from areas where the epidemic is raging. Social and healthcare workers are subject to the same restrictions.
11.3 20:54 No plans to cancel events
Finland has not cancelled large events because the measure could be ineffective unless accompanied by other restrictions, according to the Ministry for Health and Social Affairs.
Yle reports (in Finnish) that the ministry’s senior official Kirsi Varhila says that the effect of cancelling large gatherings is ‘really small’ on its own.
It would only be effective if accompanied by multiple other restrictions on daily life, according to Varhila, but that would have severe drawbacks.
“Then you could stop the functioning of the whole society,” warned Varhila.
11.3 18:36 Finland’s airport operator plans layoffs due to virus
Finnish airports operator Finavia announced on Wednesday that it will temporarily layoff staff as the spreading novel coronavirus outbreak continues to reduce the number of people travelling by air. The authority noted that the number of flights using the Helsinki-Vantaa airport as well as other airfields has fallen significantly.
11.3 18:21 Finland’s confirmed novel coronavirus infections reach 61
At least 21 new novel coronavirus infections were confirmed in Finland during Wednesday. Earlier in the day, the National Institute for Health and Welfare announced 19 confirmed infections, and later on reported that two more patients in the western region of Satakunta had the illness.
The update brought the total number of confirmed infections in Finland early Wednesday evening to 61.
11.3 17:33 Baltic Sea cruise firms feel pinch
As a result of the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak, Finnish ferry firm Viking Line said it was revising its financial outlook for the year. The company’s competitors also noted at least a slight decrease in reservations due to passenger concerns about the coronavirus situation.
11.3 13:17 One more case in Lappeenranta
One more confirmed case was reported by Yle’s local office in Lappeenranta, in the south-east of Finland. That brings the total to 59.
11.3 12.58 Ports running low on shipping containers
Finland’s largest port operators say they are running out of shipping containers, as many have been stuck in China following a widespread work stoppage caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Officials at the Hamina-Kotka harbour said that they have been experiencing difficulty acquiring empty containers because outbound containers have not returned from China. The waters off China are now said to be crowded with container ships that have not been able to dock and offload their cargo.
China is a major player in global shipping and container traffic, so the work stoppage there has effectively shut down container movement in many parts of the world.
“We know that in the weeks ahead the capacity shortfall will be dozens of percentage points. Possibly half of the ships that [normally] leave Europe for China will not set sail at all,” Hamina-Kotka harbour CEO Kimmo Naski said.
The Port of Helsinki also reported a decline in traffic. However officials there were unable to say how much of the downturn was due to the outbreak, and added that business is usually slow at the beginning of the year.
Meanwhile the container shortage did not appear to have affected the Vuosaari harbour, which is the focal point of container traffic in Helsinki.
11.3. 12.30 Confirmed number of cases rise by at least 18
Finland confirmed at least 18 new novel coronavirus infections (in Finnish) on Wednesday. Eleven of the cases were reported in the Uusimaa region in southern Finland, while three came from the Tampere region, one from central Finland, one was diagnosed in Kanta-Häme in the south and another in Southwest Finland.
Six of the new cases confirmed in the Uusimaa region were adult women, four were adult men and one was a child. All of the patients were sent home after providing samples for testing.
In the city of Forssa in Kanta-Häme, an adult man who tested positive for the disease had been exposed to an infected person at the Wahren community college. The man had also previously travelled to an outbreak area in Austria and returned on 1 March. Three persons who had come into close contact with him have been ordered into quarantine.
Another case confirmed in South Karelia reportedly caught the infection in the Helsinki region, according to the South Karelia hospital district.
11.3 9:37 Some takeaways from novel coronavirus press coverage
In our review of the morning’s newspaper press in Finland, there are reports that Finnish health authorities are in the process of ordering novel coronavirus test kits that can give faster results than the current laboratory tests being used, and that the Prime Minister video-conferenced Tuesday with other EU leaders about the situation. Also, newspaper editorial opinion that an expected downswing in tourism in Lapland might have an upside.
11.3 7:25 Cruise industry impact
The global cruise industry is heavily impacted by the novel coronavirus after several outbreaks on cruises in different countries. Finland could feel the economic chill from that, with a major shipyard in Turku reliant on orders from the cruise industry. Our story looks at the possible impact.
11.3 7:15 Confirmation class in quarantine
Overnight Aamulehti reported that a confirmation class in Kangasala, near Tampere, has been placed in quarantine until 21 March. The paper reports that some of these youths could be the same children already in quarantine after a case at the town’s Pitkäjärvi school.
Meanwhile Yle published a story featuring quotes from Markku Broas, Chief Physician in Infectious Diseases at Lapland Central Hospital, reminding people they should not go to work with even mild cold symptoms if they work in care homes or hospitals.
“So if a person who works with the elderly in a care home, a hospital, or offers social care at home, has a mild cold, then they should not come to work,” said Broas. “They should either stay away from work via self-certified sick leave or with a sick note from their occupational health provider.”
10.3 17:56 Foreign min announces €1m pledge to WHO
Finland’s foreign ministry announced on Tuesday afternoon it will contribute one million euros to the World Health Organization (WHO) for its work in developing countries to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The ministry said the WHO will be making available expert and material assistance to countries with a poor capacity to fight the epidemic, in particular.
“The aim is to slow down the spread of the virus to developing countries and to help states with weaker health systems in detecting the virus, investigating cases, and treating and isolating patients. Investment in strengthening preparedness will have a longer-term impact in that it will also help prevent other communicable diseases,” the Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari said in a ministry release.
10.3 14:25 Finnair cancels more flights
Finland’s state-owned airline Finnair has announced further cuts to capacity on its European routes.
The company is cancelling flights to Bologna, Italy; Stuttgart, Germany; Split, Croatia; Umeå, Sweden; and Venice, Italy from 29 March to 30 April.
Domestic services to Jyväskylä, Kajaani, Kokkola and Kemi will be shut down for the month of April. You can read more on this story here.
10.3 13:51 Foreign Ministry updates travel advice
The Foreign Ministry has updated its travel advice for Austria and Germany. The new advice is to avoid unnecessary travel to North-Rhine Westphalia and the Tyrol region of Austria.
That’s in addition to the whole of Italy, which has been declared an epidemic area by the THL.
10.3 13:20 Finnish parents urged to avoid taking sniffly kids to see grandparents
Finnish parents are being advised to avoid asking grandparents to look after children with a cold, in an effort to stem the spread of novel coronavirus.
As of Tuesday morning there were a total of 40 coronavirus infections in Finland, with ten new infections confirmed overnight.
Thirty of these cases have been linked to travel, with ten cases of onward infection occurring in Finland.
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) said that asking older people to look after young children is not a good idea.
“Generally, to protect the elderly and other at-risk groups from viral infections, it’s a good principle to follow,” said Mika Salminen of the THL. “It’s especially important when we’re threatened by coronavirus.”