Patrons and staff outside a restaurant in Helsinki after the serving of alcohol ended, at 5pm, on New Year’s Eve. Tightening restrictions on the restaurant industry even further would lead to the temporary lay-offs of tens of thousands of employees, views Timo Lappi, the head of the Finnish Hospitality Association (Mara). (Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)

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THE FINNISH Hospitality Association (Mara) has called for amendments to the legislation governing the use of the coronavirus passport, reports YLE.

Mara on Saturday reiterated its view that the passport should be available to people who have been fully vaccinated or recovered recently from the coronavirus disease but not to people who have tested negative for the virus.

Timo Lappi, the managing director of Mara, reminded the public broadcasting company that the interest group called for the same amendment before Christmas.

“The omicron variant is spreading fiercely, but unvaccinated people are a burden on hospital and intensive care. This’d be a way to prevent the unvaccinated from getting sick in events and restaurants and, on the other hand, a way to make it possible for companies in the event and restaurant industry to at least somehow go about their business.”

The amendment, he clarified, should also take into account people who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons.

The ministerial group responsible for managing the epidemic announced at the end of last week the government will issue a decree obliging all restaurants to close by 6pm this week. Restaurants in large parts of the country are currently required to stop serving alcohol by 5pm but allowed to stay open until 8pm if they engage primarily in the sales of food and make use of the coronavirus passport.

The group also floated the possibility of completely locking down the industry, saying it will re-evaluate the situation based on the latest information and projections this week.

Lappi on Saturday warned that the constant barrage of restrictions against the restaurant industry will compound the woes of business owners. The government, he lamented, appears to lack the courage to tackle the root reason of the prevalent epidemiological situation: unwillingness to get vaccinated.

“The solution to a new variant popping up or the situation worsening can’t always be to restrict the employer and employee right to earn a living in the event, restaurant and tourism industries,” he stressed.

Shutting down the restaurant industry yet again, he estimated, would result in the temporary lay-offs of tens of thousands of employees and exacerbate the labour shortage in the industry.

“Many employees are wondering if the industry even has a future, seeing how it can be knocked around and restricted like this. We should be able to live with the virus in a way that protects the unvaccinated but gives business owners the right to make a living,” stated Lappi.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT