Tuesday 4/13/21
EPIDEMIC IN FINLAND

Finnish Parliament unable to approve lockdown measures before Easter

The restrictions announced this week by the Prime Minister will not be in effect when many citizens of the country are on a four-day vacation next week. 
Prime Minister Sanna Marin, at one point in her address to Parliament. Photo: Hanne Salonen/Eduskunta.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin, at one point in her address to Parliament. Photo: Hanne Salonen/Eduskunta.

Finally, there will be no measures restricting freedom of movement before Easter.

The parliamentary processing of the bill sent by the Finnish Government on Thursday, limiting the movements of people and establishing the mandatory use of masks in the areas worst hit by the Covid-19 epidemic, will not be able to be done before April 6 due to procedural and timing reasons.

Therefore, the restrictions announced this week by Prime Minister Sanna Marin will not be in effect when many citizens of the country are on a four-day vacation next week. 

These measures were originally intended to take effect immediately, after their mandatory parliamentary approval, in the Helsinki metropolitan area and in Turku. The objective was to limit the movements and social contacts between people at a time when, according to the government's words, the coronavirus is spreading "rapidly and uncontrollably."

Under the government's proposal, in areas subject to mobility restrictions, people will only have the right to leave home for an 'essential' reason, such as visiting a grocery store, work, go to the doctor, visit the bank, buy medicine or for outdoors exercise. And the police could impose a fixed fine of 40 euros for violation of the mask mandate.

"The rapid increase in the number of cases in some parts of the country has placed severe strain on our contact tracing capacity. This is making it even more difficult to control the epidemic," Marin told MPs on Friday's debate.

But the approval did not take place this Friday, the day Prime Minister Marin defended its implementation before Parliament. And MPs are not sitting in Easter week, so the next possible date to vote on the bill would be Tuesday 6 April.

Threatened capacity of the health system

"One reason for the acceleration in the epidemic is the emergence of new virus variants. According to research data, the UK variant of the virus in particular spreads 30–50 per cent faster than earlier virus strains and is more likely to lead to hospitalisation, intensive care and fatalities. Although the rate of increase in the number of infections has slightly stabilised over the past week, the restrictive measures have not succeeded in reversing the trend in case numbers, at least for the time being, to a clear decline. The carrying capacity of our healthcare system is already being put to the test," the prime minister emphasized.

The government is particularly concerned about the situation in intensive care units, whose capacity may be overwhelmed if cases rebound. According to Marin, there is "an estimated 50–75% probability that we will exceed the carrying capacity of specialised medical care within the next four weeks."

The Secretary General of Parliament, Maija-Leena Paavola, had previously doubted whether it would be possible to pass the government proposal before Easter. Speaking to the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE), she stated that the procedures would take too long.

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