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People outside Mascot Bar in Kallio, Helsinki, on 29 September 2020. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)

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THE GOVERNMENT of Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) has decided to temporarily limit the opening and serving hours of restaurants due to the coronavirus situation in Finland.

The government is today expected to finalise a decree limiting the opening hours of restaurants across the country to 4am to 1am and the serving hours to 9am to 12am as of Thursday, 1 October. Restaurants, however, will be granted a one-week transition period, meaning they need not adhere to the limits until 8 October.

The decree is to remain in effect until 31 October.

Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) on Tuesday confirmed that the opening hours will be the “new normal” in all parts of the country, although restaurants in areas where the coronavirus epidemic is in the acceleration phase will be required to stop serving at 10pm and close their doors at 11pm.

The acceleration phase is characterised by an incidence of 10–25 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants over a period of two weeks. The threshold is exceeded presently in the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS).

The government decided not to impose any capacity-based restrictions on restaurant operations. Restaurants, it said, will be allowed to take in a full capacity of customers – as defined in their licence or the building plan – but have to provide a seat for each customer and make sure customers and customer groups do not come into unnecessary close contact with each other.

Restaurants will also be required to see to good hygiene practices.

Those in regions where the epidemic is accelerating, on the other hand, will only be allowed to take in half of their usual full capacity.

Kiuru on Tuesday effectively confirmed that the tougher restrictions will apply to Helsinki and Uusimaa: “That’ll be how we approach the issue in these regions in practice,” she commented.

Kirsi Varhila, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, on Tuesday clarified on YLE's A-studio that the tougher restrictions will be adopted no earlier than in a few weeks' time in Uusimaa.

The government said yesterday it will monitor the incidence of the coronavirus in different regions throughout October. Regions deemed to be in the acceleration phase will face the further restrictions at a short notice upon the recommendation of experts at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The stage of the epidemic is subject to weekly evaluations, while decisions on additional restrictions to restaurant operations will be made once every two weeks.

UPDATE: The story was updated with comments from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health's Kirsi Varhila.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi

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