Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) shed light on upcoming amendments to the communicable diseases act at a press conference held in Helsinki on Thursday, 25 November 2021. (Mikko Stig – Lehtikuva)

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THE GOVERNMENT of Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) on Thursday announced a number of decisions to rein in the coronavirus epidemic, signalling a major re-alignment of its approach to the epidemic.

Although the decisions signal a return to the kind of stricter restrictions witnessed last spring, their impact on the daily lives of vaccinated people will not be as significant as the coronavirus passport remains a means to attend events and enter restaurants falling within the purview of the restrictions.

A tentative decision on the restrictions was made by a ministerial working group led by Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP), according to Helsingin Sanomat.

The working group is proposing that restaurants in areas where the coronavirus is spreading the most quickly be obliged to stop serving alcohol at 5pm and close their doors at 6pm. The obligations would not apply to cafés, fast-food restaurants or other establishments not serving alcoholic beverages.

Any restaurants could also avoid the restrictions by requiring that all their customers show the coronavirus passport.

The government is set to make a formal decision on the restrictions in a meeting starting at 10am on Friday, 26 November. The restrictions are to enter into force at midnight on Sunday.

Helsingin Sanomat on Thursday wrote that the government also settled its dispute about the testing requirements of unvaccinated people arriving in Finland. People who have yet to be fully vaccinated against the virus will continue to have to get tested within three to five days after their arrival in the country.

The need for the requirement will be re-examined at the end of March.

People arriving in the country will continue to have to present a credible certificate of full vaccination with an approved vaccine, recovery from the coronavirus in the past six months or a negative result from a coronavirus test taken before arrival. The requirement to get tested within three to five days of arrival will apply to people who gain entry by consenting to a test upon arrival or presenting a certificate of either a negative test or partial vaccination.

The government is ready to both extend and supplement the temporary provisions introduced to the communicable diseases act on grounds of the epidemic. The provisions on the coronavirus passport, for example, are to be amended to obligate restaurants to require the passport continuously instead of only when restrictions are introduced.

The extended provisions are to remain in force until June 2022.

The Finnish Parliament is next month set to receive a bill that would re-define the passport as an independent restriction rather than a means to circumvent restrictions and expand its scope of application to workplaces. Municipalities, in turn, will be required to grant the EU digital certificate also to people vaccinated outside the EU, as long as the vaccine they received have been authorised by the European Commission or approved for emergency use by the World Health Organisation.

The working group also decided to adopt a new vaccination strategy and increase testing and contact tracing.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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