Prime Minister Sanna Marin (left) and Minister of Science and Culture Annika Saarikko held a press conference to shed light on the government’s strategy for exiting the coronavirus restrictions in Helsinki on Wednesday, 21 April 2021. (Emmi Korhonen – Lehtikuva)

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THE GOVERNMENT of Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) has presented an updated plan for doing away with the restrictions social life and business activity adopted to slow down the spread of the new coronavirus in Finland.

Marin on Wednesday said the government could make a decision to lift the state of emergency as soon as next week, provided that the epidemiological situation remains good.

Minister of Science and Culture Annika Saarikko (Centre) revealed that the plan is to allow indoor and outdoor events with no more than 50 attendees in regions in the baseline stage of the epidemic as soon as possible.

“Suitable outdoor venues, such as football stadiums and other venues suitable for section-based thinking, could also have more than 50 attendees as long as health security, social distancing and anti-congestion measures have been taken into consideration at the event,” she commented.

Restrictions on the events industry will be relaxed further, to include events with a higher number of attendees, during the course of May.

“We agreed that the requirement of a safe distance of two metres will be done away with for outdoor events in June. It’ll remain in effect for indoor events in areas where the incidence is over 25 [infections per 100,000 inhabitants]. All this will require an amendment to the act [on communicable diseases] by the Parliament.”

Saarikko added that in light of the present epidemiological situations larger events could be allowed later in the summer.

Outdoor group activities for children and young people, meanwhile, will be resumed this month, with competitive, leisure and camp activities taking place outdoors to follow at the beginning of June. Indoor activities not entailing close contact are to be allowed later in June, with indoor competitive and leisure activities, along with activities entailing close contact, to follow in July.

Activities for adults would similarly be resumed step by step, roughly a month later than activities for children and young people.

Saarikko also revealed the government could make a decision on a framework for supporting the epidemic-struck culture, events and sports industries as soon as later today, as it convenes for its midterm session.

Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo (Greens) said Finland will uphold internal border controls as long as necessary while gradually lifting the restrictions on travel and replacing them with various health measures at borders as of May.

The first form of travel to be allowed under the updated exit strategy would be that within members of communities spreading across the border with Sweden or Norway. The government would then relax the restrictions on business travel and travel for family-related reasons within the European Union.

“Lifting internal border controls completely will be possible when the vaccination coverage of the adult population is high enough, there are good enough health security measures at borders and it’s made possible by the epidemiological situation in Europe,” she outlined.

She recommended, though, that people refrain from travelling abroad this summer.

The government received over 2,000 statements on an earlier version of its exit strategy, which was made public a little over a week ago.

“We got very valuable information on how people have experienced the restrictions and what kind of expectations they have as far as their removal is concerned,” Marin said, revealing that the statements drew attention to the need to ease the situation of children and young people, and those in a vulnerable position.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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