Friday 10/23/20
CORONAVIRUS

Opposition parties accuse Marin of lying about usefulness of masks

Marin's recognition that she was not guided by health criteria when in spring she decided not to recommend the use of face masks has caused a great controversy.

MPs and private citizens directly accused the prime minister of "lying" and of playing with the health of the population.

PM Sanna Marin wearing a face mask. Photo: Laura Kotila/Vnk.
PM Sanna Marin wearing a face mask. Photo: Laura Kotila/Vnk.

Question time in the Finnish Parliament on Thursday gave way to a bitter national controversy over the government's messages on the advisability of wearing masks in the first phase of the coronavirus pandemic. Opposition MPs and citizens on social media accuse the government and the prime minister of having knowingly lied to the people.

The origin of the controversy is the words of Prime Minister Sanna Marin in which she admitted that last spring the Government decided not to recommend the use of masks to the public because there were not enough supplies in the country.

"If a general recommendation had been given to use masks without masks available, what confusion would have arisen without masks available?" Marin asked on Thursday.

In fact, during the first wave of the pandemic Finland became one of the few countries in the world whose government questioned the usefulness of face masks against coronavirus. Senior officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health went so far as to present publicly a report saying that the benefits of face shields were minimal or non-existent and that its use could even increase the risks of contracting the Covid-19 disease.

The government changed its mind towards the use of masks by mid-August. When the cases began to rise again, Prime Minister Marin herself appeared at a press conference with the head of THL to recommend its use in public transport and in confined places where it was not possible to keep a safe distance.

Now, with the epidemic almost out of control in many areas of the country, public authorities have recently extended the recommendation to wear masks.

#MaskiGate

Marin's recognition that she was not guided by health criteria when in spring the government decided not to recommend the use of face masks has caused a great controversy on Twitter, where the hashtag #MaskiGate became a trending topic. Some MPs and private citizens have directly accused the prime minister of "lying" and of playing with the health of the population.

Finnish media have also rescued the old spring news from their archives, with headlines showing that the government alerted through Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health Kirsi Varhila that, according to a report submitted to the government, the masks could increase the risk of contagion.

According to the newspaper Iltalehti, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health paid more than 26,000 euros for that report on the use of face masks to the company Summaryx Oy, which produced it quickly, in just two weeks.

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