The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine/Lehtikuva

Various institutions in the Eastern Finland region of Kainuu have begun offering gift vouchers in a bid to encourage more residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine. According to a report by Helsingin-Sanomat, the vouchers include a chance for free pizza, coffee or gasoline. 

The cooperative bank Kuhmon Osuuspankki is awarding locals in the Kuhmo municipality a voucher worth 20 euros, which can be used to purchase items such as pizza or fuel, when they get the first dose of the vaccine.

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Helsinki police have begun a preliminary investigation into the actions of an employee of the City of Helsinki, who violated data privacy regulations by accessing the personal information of several individuals in the healthcare system without permission. 

In July, the City revealed that the employee, who worked in the social services and healthcare sector, viewed the information of 132 customers and 12 employees. The data included details related to family, financial assistance and other records. 

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A sign for a COVID-19 testing point at the Finnish-Swedish border checkpoint in Tornio, Lapland/Lehtikuva

Finnish tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports that authorities are no longer conducting COVID-19 tests on travellers crossing into Finland from Norway or Sweden via the border checkpoints in Lapland. 

Finland reported its first case of the Mu strain of the COVID-19 virus earlier this week. Officially termed B.1.621, it was designated a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization (WHO) last month and has been detected in 39 other countries so far.

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The Kela service point in Kamppi, Helsinki/Lehtikuva

Helsingin Sanomat reports that approximately 4.4 million Finns—amounting to roughly 80 percent of the population—received some kind of financial support from the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela) last year.

The figure first came to light when the Managing Director of the Finnish Centre for Pensions (Eläketurvakeskus) Mikko Kautto criticised the country’s current social welfare model in an interview with the paper earlier this month. 

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Nepal's Living Goddess 'Kumari' peeps from a window during a procession on the main day of the Indra Jatra festival at the Durbar Square in Kathmandu on September 19, 2021. LEHTIKUVA / AFP

Here are the most interesting and eye-catching images of this week, from all around the world.

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A distinctive lighthouse on Åland (Image: Lehtikuva)

ONE OF THE UNIQUE CULTURAL, SOCIAL, AND POLITICAL QUIRKS of Finland is its millennia-long links with its Western neighbour Sweden. Finland was a part of the Swedish Empire for more than 700 years, and today Swedish speakers form a significant and visible part of Finnish society.

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According to the latest statistics, an average of 38 children are abducted in Finland and taken to other countries every year. Finnish tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports that several abduction cases currently under investigation involve parents who are divorced and share custody of the child.

Tarja Räisänen, the executive director of Abducted Children Finland NGO (Kaapatut Lapset), told Ilta-Sanomat that children are often kidnapped as a result of a custody dispute. 

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Finnish language newspaper Helsingin-Sanomat reports that Finland has witnessed an exceptionally high rise in birth rates during the COVID-19 crisis. A comparison of fertility rates around the world indicates an overall decline in the number of births globally since last October. 

Finland’s birth rate has increased the most compared to 29 other developed nations in the West, making it one of the few countries to see a baby boom during this period. 

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Members of the Extinction Rebellion (Elokapina) movement protest in front of the Bank of Finland on 8 September/Lehtikuva

An extensive international study has found that a large majority of people aged 16–25 are suffering from severe anxiety caused by the climate crisis and lack of government action regarding the same. 

Around 75 percent of respondents said they believed the future was “frightening,” and 45 percent felt that distress and anxiety related to climate change are affecting their daily life. The study surveyed 10,000 people from 10 different countries, including Finland. 

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Metro and tram services in Helsinki will halt on Thursday and Friday as drivers have called a strike over plans to incorporate public transport company Helsinki City Transport (HKL).

According to Helsingin Sanomat, the City Board approved the proposal to incorporate HKL, which operates the city’s metro and tram lines, on Monday with a nearly unanimous vote of 12–3. 

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Greens Chairperson Maria Ohisalo has previously said that possessing small quantities of the drug should not be punishable by law/Lehtikuva

The Green League (Greens) created a stir on Sunday when it approved an initiative calling for marijuana to be decriminalised in Finland, making it the first party in the parliament to support the legalisation of the drug.

The initiative seeks to decriminalise the use, possession, manufacture and sale of marijuana, and recommends that the drug be subject to the same comprehensive regulations (including regulations on manufacture, sales and taxes) as other legal substances. It also calls for the removal of criminal convictions related to marijuana use from citizens’ personal data records. 

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