A Helsinki bar informed passers-by that “everything is cancelled” on 12 January 2022. (Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)

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THE FINNISH INSTITUTE for Health and Welfare (THL) is proposing that bars, pubs, nightclubs and other restaurants serving primarily alcohol be shut down completely as soon as possible for at least three weeks to reduce social contact and protect public health, reports YLE.

The nationwide shutdown, it acknowledged, may have to be extended beyond the initial duration.

THL estimated that the shutdown would be both necessary and proportionate in the current epidemiological situation. Limiting social contact, it explained, is necessary specifically to safeguard the health care system as the pressure on the system has mounted rapidly and is expected to continue doing so due to the omicron variant.

Restaurants serving primarily food, such as lunch restaurants, could stay open during the shutdown.

The proposal was forwarded in a statement drafted at the request of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Ilta-Sanomat reported on Wednesday.

All 21 Finnish regions presently meet the criteria for community transmission, but the epidemiological situation and the burden it places on hospital regions varies notably between and within regions. It could thus be prudent to implement the shutdown in a staggered fashion, according to THL.

The ministerial working group in charge of managing the epidemic will convene to mull over the shutdown on Friday.

The government floated the possibility of a complete shutdown last week when declaring that restaurants must stop serving alcohol by 5pm and close their doors by 6pm until the end of January. The current restrictions will not suffice to curb the surging demand for hospital resources, estimated THL.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT