People lined up outside Old Irish Pub in Helsinki on Friday, 1 October 2021. (Teemu Salonen – Lehtikuva)


THE EASING of restrictions on restaurants has immediately spiced up nightlife in different parts of Finland, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

The Finnish government announced last week restaurants in areas in the community transmission phase of the coronavirus epidemic will be allowed to serve alcohol and stay open an hour longer than previously. Restaurants in areas in the acceleration phase, in turn, were relieved of restrictions entirely.

Restaurants in Tampere, for example, have been subjected to no restrictions as of Friday.

Helsingin Sanomat on Sunday wrote that the easing of restrictions has affected the workload of police. Ismo Nykopp, a chief inspector at Central Finland Police Department, stated to the newspaper that from the viewpoint of police the weekend resembled a busy summer weekend in Tampere.

“When restaurant restrictions were in place, the number of calls was lower and the calls stopped coming at about 2am or 3am. We’ve now had calls about all sorts of disturbance, scuffles and violence until the morning,” he said.

“I’m sure [the lifting of restrictions] is visible in some way. It doesn’t explain everything, but it does look like people are enjoying the nightlife with some vigour and dedication.”

The busy weekend was visible especially in the number of people brought into custody in Pirkanmaa and Central Finland. The number of intoxicated people was twice as high as recently between late Friday and early Saturday.

“Scuffles in public places were mostly why people ended up in lock-up,” said Nykopp.

Restaurants in Helsinki are allowed to serve alcohol until 12am and stay open until 1am. Police in the Finnish capital described the weekend as busy but not exceptionally busy.

“People were naturally out until a bit later, given that restaurants have been open until later. Friday was quite busy for us on both sides of midnight. People will be out as long as restaurants are open,” summed up Juha Haapalainen, a chief inspector at Helsinki Police Department.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) on Thursday described the decision to ease restrictions on restaurants as premature, reminding that establishments serving alcohol continue to be associated with a significant risk of transmission.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) on Saturday told YLE that the government decided to relax the restrictions in order not to leave restaurants in an unequal position following, for example, the recent lifting of restrictions on public gatherings in Uusimaa.

She also drew attention to the importance of re-opening society gradually, viewing that it allows the public to learn how to use various services safely. Although the easing of restrictions will probably drive up infection numbers, she also reminded that the majority of the public have received two vaccine injections.

“They have a need and every right to move toward more normal life. We can’t keep society shut down endlessly as a precautionary measure,” she said to the public broadcaster.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT