THE FINNISH GOVERNMENT on Wednesday announced it will continue to relax a number of restrictions introduced to keep the coronavirus epidemic under control in Finland.
Hanna Kosonen (Centre), the Minister of Culture and Science, stated in a press conference that as long as the epidemic does not take a turn for the worse the government will allow the organisation of events with more than 500 attendees both indoors and outdoors on 1 August.
The organisers of events will be required to see to the safety of attendees and staff members alike by limiting close contact and promoting adherence to hygiene practices. The decisions will be made based on the recommendation of the government by the Regional State Administrative Agencies, according to Kosonen.
Five new cases, no new deaths reported in Finland
The government has already allowed indoor and outdoor events with no more than 500 attendees on the condition that the organisers are able to control the number of attendees and limit close contact between them. The restriction is to be relaxed at the beginning of next month, as per a previous decision, to also allow outdoor events with over 500 attendees if the attendees can be placed in separate areas each with a capacity not exceeding 500.
As long as the coronavirus epidemic does not take a turn for the worse, the government is to lift all restrictions on public gatherings on 1 October.
The restrictions on restaurants will similarly be relaxed, the government announced.
Bars, cafés and restaurants will be allowed to serve alcohol between 9am and 1am and stay open between 4am and 2am as of Monday, 22 June. Buffet-style arrangements will also be allowed, while the limit on customer numbers will be raised from 50 to 75 per cent of normal maximum capacity although all customers will still be required to have their own seat.
Timo Lappi, the managing director of the Finnish Hospitality Association (Mara), congratulated the government for making excellent decisions for the industry in a press release.
The easing and lifting of restrictions on public gatherings, he pointed out, is welcome news for the organisers of fairs, conferences and other types of events. Allowing buffet-style arrangements, in turn, will make it easier for hotels to serve breakfast and transport centres to engage in restaurant operations.
“Allowing serving until 1am and restaurants to close at 2am also enables nightclubs to open. Raising the maximum customer number to 75 per cent [of normal maximum capacity] enables a growing number of restaurants to open,” added Lappi.
The government decided also to allow visits to hospitals and assisted living facilities for the elderly although they may be prohibited at the discretion of regional authorities and facility directors, respectively.
“We must still take it seriously that there’s a considerable risk of the epidemic spreading in housing units for risk groups,” reminded Krista Kiuru (SDP), the Minister of Social Affairs and Health. “The right of people to meet their loved ones must not undermine the right of others to life and health.”
The grounds for the decisions is that the epidemic has continued to slow down in Finland. The new coronavirus is currently estimated to have a reproduction number – that is, the number of people a carrier will infect on average – of 0.4–0.8 in the country.
The government underlined, however, that it is prepared to tighten the restrictions if the epidemic begins to accelerate.
It will reconvene next week to discuss issues such as cross-border travel, instructions for the elderly and recommendation for remote work.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT