Three of Finnish government’s proposals on coronavirus response move forward

Three of Finnish government’s proposals on coronavirus response move forward

THREE GOVERNMENT PROPOSALS linked to measures to combat the coronavirus epidemic moved forward on Thursday.

Helsingin Sanomat wrote that the government yesterday not only submitted bills for shutting down gyms and other group exercise facilities and restricting the operations of restaurants after the three-week shutdown, but also received the thumbs-up for its proposal on entry criteria from the Parliament’s Social Affairs and Health Committee.

Restaurants in areas in the acceleration and community transmission phase of the epidemic have been shut down for three weeks under a bill adopted on Monday. The government proposed yesterday that restaurants be obliged to reduce their maximum capacity by up to two-thirds, stop serving alcohol at 5pm and close their doors at 6pm after the shutdown.

The capacity limit would depend on whether the restaurant is primarily engaged in the sales of alcohol or food, with the former required to limit maximum capacity to one-third and the latter to half of usual.

The corresponding limits at the moment are 50 and 25 per cent, respectively. Restaurants were allowed to serve alcohol until 10pm and stay open until 11pm before the shutdown.

The decree could also oblige restaurants to only take in patrons with bookings and limit activities such as singing and musical performances.

The restrictions would not apply to canteens or sales to takeaway customers. The opening-hour restrictions also would not apply to the cafés and restaurants of service stations or the food service operations of ships and aircraft in international traffic.

The Finnish Hospitality Association (Mara) on Thursday viewed that restaurants would likely keep their doors closed beyond the three-week shutdown because the additional restrictions would make profitable operations impossible.

The government also presented a bill to clarify the confusion regarding privately operated gyms and other exercise facilities.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Regional State Administrative Agency (AVI) for Southern Finland had engaged in a much-publicised disagreement over how the newly amended act on communicable diseases should be interpreted, with the former arguing that the facilities can be shut down and the latter that the facilities can continue to operate by limiting capacity to 10.

The government proposal seeks to put the disagreement to bed by removing reference to number of users, customers, attendees or participants as a criterion for shutting down.

The Parliament’s Social Affairs and Health Committee, meanwhile, unanimously approved a statement obliging the government to draft an entry model based on certificates of either a negative coronavirus test, a coronavirus vaccination or recovery from a coronavirus infection. The purpose of the model is to both limit the spread of the coronavirus and prepare for the eventual increase in cross-border traffic.

The committee argued that the model would enable local authorities to target mandatory health checks at people who do not have the necessary documentation.

The Finnish Border Guard, the committee also viewed, should be granted the authority to assist health care officials at borders.

“Passing this bill wouldn’t mean that everyone will be tested at borders,” reminded Markus Lohi (Centre), the chairperson of the Social Affairs and Health Committee. “That’d require that municipalities and regional state administrative agencies draft a plan for how border controls or health checks at borders are implemented going forward.”

“This [proposal] basically only means that the uncertainty about how the existing section of the law should be implemented is removed.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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