Musician Paula Vesala on Friday voiced her frustration with the lack of support provided to the pandemic-hit cultural and events industry. (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)

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THE PLIGHT of the cultural and events industries became a hot topic of debate last weekend in Finland.

Musician Paula Vesala on Friday stated to Suomen Kuvalehti that the government has handled the coronavirus epidemic very badly, viewing that the industries have taken a “beating” especially because of Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP).

“There has been zero action,” she declared. “If I had the chance, I’d brandish the axe at [Prime Minister Sanna] Marin (SDP) and Kiuru.”

Vesala is a member of a task force weighing up ways to organise cultural and sporting events safely under the Ministry of Education and Culture. She stated to the weekly newspaper that although other members of the task force have heard the proposals made by the industry representatives, nothing has changed as authorities have insisted on pigeonholing even low-risk events as gatherings of “drunk people drooling”.

Marin, Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä (Centre) and Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo (Greens) all expressed their sympathy with the situation on Sunday.

Lintilä told Helsingin Sanomat that he is aware that the patience of the industries is wearing thin, having received loads of messages filled with frustration.

“I understand completely that it can feel unfair when 10 people can be in the cinema while the restaurant next door can have 100 people. This is a situation that should be thoroughly examined and put to the table.”

He also reminded that the government has supported the cultural and events industries financially to the total tune of 213 million euros, in part through the Ministry of Employment and the Economy and in part through the Ministry of Education and Culture.

The government, he added, is presently re-examining the criteria of its cost support scheme to make it more suitable to the industries before starting the third round of payments. He declined to comment on the specifics but said he hopes the proposal can be submitted for comments no later than next week and the support disbursed in March or April.

“But no kind of support can fix the situation in the creative and event industries. It can be fixed only by making operations in the industries possible,” he admitted.

Ohisalo, in turn, floated the idea of introducing vaccination or negative coronavirus test certificates as an entry condition to attending an event.

“Support is needed and it’s important that it’s allocated better going forward,” she tweeted. “At the same time we have to do scenario planning to evaluate the possibility of having events next summer. We have to also examine, for example, if it’d be possible to adopt vaccination or test certificate as an entry condition or something like that.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT