Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) spoke to reporters outside the House of the Estates in Helsinki on Wednesday, 25 November 2020. (Emmi Korhonen – Lehtikuva)

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THE FINNISH GOVERNMENT convened yesterday to discuss the circumstances in which the emergency powers act could be invoked to manage the coronavirus epidemic, agreeing that it is not yet necessary to declare a state of emergency to gain access to the powers granted in the act.

“I don’t see that we’re yet in such a situation,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) told YLE outside the House of the Estates in Helsinki.

“The restrictions that the capital region has agreed on are firm. I believe these measures will get us far and the case numbers will come down.”

The government, she added, must nonetheless prepare for all eventualities because the coronavirus epidemic remains prone to deteriorating rapidly. The epidemic has already moved to the spreading phase in both the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) and Päijät-Häme Hospital District.

Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday wrote that the government was presented a memo indicating that the grounds for declaring a state of emergency over the coronavirus epidemic may be met later due to the rate at which the virus is spreading and the serious nature of the disease. A state of emergency, the memo also read, can only be declared out of absolute necessity, not as a precautionary measure.

YLE, in turn, highlighted that the government must have also exhausted all the options afforded under the ordinary legislation – namely, the infectious diseases act – before invoking the emergency powers act.

The measures that could be utilised in the event of a state of emergency are similar to those adopted last spring, according to the public broadcasting company: re-organising hospital resources, shelving the care guarantee, obligating health care professionals to work and limiting the movement of people.

Marin on Wednesday also commended the stricter measures proposed by the task force leading the effort against the coronavirus in the capital region. Some regions in the acceleration phase, she added, should similarly consider ramping up their response to the epidemic.

“Areas in the acceleration phase have room to step up. They should look at the examples we’ve seen. If you don’t take action in time, the disease may move to the spreading phase and [necessitate] even firmer restrictions,” she said, identifying restricting the hobbies of adults as a possible way to limit social contacts.

“I’m encouraging regions to take predictive, firm-enough action,” she said. “I’m sure we could’ve avoided the current situation had we done more earlier.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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