Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) spoke to reporters after sitting down with the chairpersons and parliamentary group leaders of the five ruling parties in Helsinki on Thursday, 12 March 2020. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)


THE FINNISH GOVERNMENT has begun preparatory work on additional measures to contain the coronavirus epidemic and protect the most vulnerable segments of the population.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) on Saturday revealed she has asked government officials to draft a decree to commission the emergency powers act in order to ensure the act can be commissioned on short notice if necessary.

“The emergency powers act won’t be discussed by the government on Monday. But we’re prepared for everything,” she stated.

Marin also affirmed her confidence in the country overcoming the epidemic after talking about the situation with President Sauli Niinistö and Speaker of the Parliament Matti Vanhanen (Centre).

“Even though more difficult times lie ahead, Finland and Finns will overcome this. Our health care professionals are highly skilled and our authorities reliable. The society is working. Now every one of us must think about our fellow citizens and their well-being even more than usual,” she underlined.

Li Andersson (Left Alliance), the Minister of Education, said the government will today also re-examine its decision on kindergartens, schools, universities and other educational institutions.

The Finnish government has come under heavy criticism for its reluctance to take decisive action in the fight against the outbreak, including from the editor-in-chief of Helsinki Times, Alexis Kouros. Charly Salonius-Pasternack, a senior researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, on Saturday voiced his bafflement with the refusal to commission the emergency powers act in anticipation of the situation escalating further.

The act could prove useful in two circumstances, according to Martin Scheinin, a professor of international law and human rights at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.

Scheinin highlighted that section 86 of the act provides tools to deal with a situation similar to that in Italy: the concentration of coronavirus patients requiring emergency care in a particular locality or region in a way that exceeds the local or regional resources.

The section, he explained, enables the government to order a health care unit to expand or change its operations; move some or all of its operations outside its region; organise services also outside its region; receive people in need of care or treatment regardless of previous rulings or agreements; and relinquish the unit or parts of it to the central government.

He viewed that such measures would be an effective way to ensure the emergency care capacity is utilised fully in circumstances where the epidemic is affecting some parts of the country more than others.

Another section of the emergency powers act, meanwhile, enables the government to limit the constitutional right to social and health care services.

A decision to invoke the emergency powers act would have to be made by the government and president. The order to invoke the act would then be presented to the Parliament, which will determine whether it should be issued or revoked, either partly or fully, and how long the order would be in effect.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi