The government issued Thursday a new decree restricting the activities of bars, restaurants and all food and beverage service businesses due to the coronavirus epidemic.
The decree tightens existing restrictions in several regions of the country due to the increase in the number of cases of the virus. One of the areas that will be most affected is Lapland, where hoteliers await the arrival of Christmas, and with it tourists from other parts of Finland and from abroad, to try to save a year that has been catastrophic for their business.
However, from Saturday 12 December, restaurants and pubs in the northernmost region of Finland will see their opening hours and sales of alcoholic beverages further restricted. The reason explained by the government is not that Lapland is at an epidemic level that justifies the measure, but the fear that foreign tourists bring the virus.
Infections in Länsi-Pohja
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health explained that infections have increased in the Lansi-Pohja hospital district, which is a small area in the Lapland region bordering Sweden. For this reason, the Government has decided to implement preventive measures and restrict the activity of bars and restaurants throughout Lapland.
The government admitted in a press release that the situation in the rest of Lapland is stable and the region remains at the base level of the epidemic, but fears that foreign tourists will bring and spread the Covid-19:
"The hospital district of Länsi-Pohja, which is classified as part of Lapland, has reached the acceleration phase of the epidemic, whereas the hospital district of Lapland is still at the stable level. Uniform restrictions are being laid down because the tourist season will bring tens of thousands of tourists from other countries to Lapland for Christmas and the New Year, especially from places that are in the acceleration and community transmission phase of the epidemic," the Ministry said.
Alcohol sale until 22:00
The decree states that, as of Saturday 12 December, bars, restaurants, pubs and nightclubs in Lapland will have to stop serving alcohol at 22:00 (two hours earlier than now) and close at 23:00. And they will be allowed to admit only half of the normal number of customers.
Food and beverage businesses that do not sell alcohol may remain open until midnight and seat customers up to 75% of their capacity.
Government says the restrictions in Lapland are the same as those previously imposed in other regions that entered the acceleration phase of the epidemic: Satakunta, Pirkanmaa, South Karelia, North Karelia, Central Finland, South Ostrobothnia, Ostrobothnia, Central Ostrobothnia and Kainuu.
However, the government has not applied the same criteria for Lapland and for the entire South Savo region. The Ministry statement reads:
"In addition, the same restrictions apply to businesses serving food or beverages located in the Hospital District of South Savo, but not to the entire region of South Savo. This is because the epidemic is still at the stable level in the Hospital District of East Savo, which is part of the region of South Savo."