Pasi Pohjola, the head of strategic affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, spoke at a press conference in Helsinki on 25 November 2021. (Mikko Stig – Lehtikuva)


THIS WEEK will be critical for determining whether or not the government has to employ the so-called emergency brake, estimate officials at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Pasi Pohjola, the director of strategic affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, on Saturday stated to YLE that the prevalent situation satisfies nearly all of the criteria for utilising the brake to introduce stricter restrictions in an attempt to bring the situation under control.

The criteria include an exacerbating epidemiological situation, waning vaccine protection, the emergence of a new variant and rising burden on hospital resources.

“These criteria are indeed met,” Pohjola confirmed on YLE A-studio. “Then there’s naturally the criteria that the measures adopted regionally aren’t enough. And because the tougher [regional] measures have only just been adopted, we’ll have to wait and see whether the measures will have an impact.”

Regional authorities have recently stepped up restrictions especially on public gatherings, but they can be circumvented by utilising the coronavirus passport.

Pohjola estimated that the measures should begin to have an impact on infection figures starting this week. If they fail to have an impact on the infection numbers and strain on hospital resources, the government may have no choice but to hit the brake.

Whether or not it is necessary is presently being discussed by an inter-administrative official task force.

“The emergency brake makes it possible to clamp down on public events and use of facilities – if necessary, even to shut down facilities on a temporary basis. And if necessary, it’d be possible to nationally or regionally prevent the use of the coronavirus passport as an alternative to restrictions,” he said to YLE.

Limiting the use of the passport, he explained, would reduce contact between people as also vaccinated people would not come into contact with one another in settings such as restaurants.

The government also identifies other measures in its statement on the emergency brake mechanism, such as stepping up health security measures at borders and transitioning toward remote instruction in education.

Information obtained by the public broadcasting company suggests discussions have already taken place about scrapping the coronavirus passport at borders and revert to wider-scale testing in an attempt to delay the entry of the omicron variant. The transition toward remote instruction, meanwhile, is considered a last-resort measure.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT