Minister of Culture and Science Annika Saarikko (Centre) on Tuesday confirmed the Centre Party is ready to resort to movement restrictions to contain the coronavirus epidemic. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)


THE GOVERNMENT of Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) failed to find common ground on introducing restrictions to the movement of people in a meeting that dragged on almost until midnight on Tuesday, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

The Green League, Left Alliance and Swedish People’s Party will sit down with their respective parliamentary groups today to determine whether they are ready to proceed with the restrictions.

Marin confirmed after the meeting that the parliamentary groups will determine whether the government has the preconditions to submit the proposal to the Parliament. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, she reminded, are both of the opinion that the restrictions are justified and necessary.

Their opinions should put pressure on the three parliamentary groups still contemplating the issue, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

The Left Alliance is particularly uneasy with the notion of restricting the movement of people, sources within the government old the daily newspaper. Paavo Arhinmäki, the chairperson of the Left Alliance Parliamentary Group, has repeatedly criticised the notion in public, branding them as “excessive” on 13 March.

“It’s an issue that goes so deep in limiting basic rights that we aren’t ready for them, not that there is a need for them,” he stated to STT.

If the three parliamentary groups show the green light to the proposal, the government will decide on whether or not to proceed no earlier than on Thursday.

YLE on Tuesday revealed that the government is set to introduce the restrictions initially in Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen and Turku. Its proposal would prohibit movement outside the homes and yards of people except for reasons such as buying food, groceries or medications; visiting a bank or post office; earning a living; using social or health care services; participating in education, attending the funeral of a family member; and entering and leaving the country.

Compliance with the restrictions would be monitored by police, with non-compliance possibly resulting in a fine.

The government is also proposing that a face mask mandate for indoor spaces and public modes of transport be adopted in areas targeted with the movement restrictions. The mandate would apply to people born in 2007 or earlier who do not have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask.

Violating the mask mandate could result in a petty fine of 40 euros.

The government will continue to iron out certain details of the proposal on Wednesday, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT