Coronavirus latest: 229 new cases on Saturday, PM’s emails sealed, municipal support package criticised

Asiakkaita menossa Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 rokotukseen Myyrmäen Energia Areenan rokotuspisteessä Vantaalla.
Pfizer-Biontech vaccinations being administered at Myyrmäki Energia Areena in Vantaa on 5 May.

Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

Check a range of regional, national and international Covid data at Yle’s dashboard.

8.5 13:22 229 new infections

Finland recorded 229 new confirmed Covid infections on Saturday, bringing the cumulative total to 88,561.

The biggest growth was recorded in the Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) hospital district, with 85 cases added. Southwest Finland recorded 50 new cases and Pirkanmaa 31.

Meanwhile THL announced that some 1,903,818 people had received their first dose of Covid vaccine, an increase of 34,252 since Friday.

That equates to 34.2 percent of the population.

8.5 13:15 Opposition MP: Councils’ Covid support too generous

Finns Party vice-chair Riikka Purra says that the government’s support package for municipalities was too generous, and enabled some councils to bank cash they didn’t need. Read our story here.

8.5 12:05 PM’s emails sealed

The office of the Prime Minister has refused to hand over emails sent by the PM and her advisors when they were preparing failed lockdown legislation, after a request by the Finnish news agency STT. The Chancellor of Justice Tuomas Pöysti has published his side of the correspondence. Read our story here.

7.5 17:48 Future of Finland’s Covid nasal spray vaccine uncertain

A Finnish Covid vaccine company says it risks private investors withdrawing from the endeavour after the state investment agency Business Finland said it would not cover the full cost of a clinical trial.

More on this story here.

7.5 12:36 Finland reports 254 new cases on Friday

There were 254 new lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases registered in Finland over the past 24 hours on Friday, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Once again, the majority of cases (112) were seen in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District, while there were 76 cases registered in the hospital district of Southwest Finland and 17 cases in the Pirkanmaa Hospital District.

As of Friday, Finland has recorded 88.332 Covid cases since the start of the epidemic last year.

7.5 12:31 Covid home test kits hitting stores

A Finnish company says it is bringing hundreds of thousands of Covid home test kits to the market in the near future.

The test, giving results in 15 to 20 minutes, are expected to retail for around 10 euros.

More on this story here.

7.5 9:17 Paper: Finns heading to Russia for vaccine

Finland has the EU’s second-highest cumulative uptake of at least one coronavirus vaccine dose, but Covid-19 vaccine tourism is still drawing some people to Russia.

Many Finns have travelled across the Russian border to get the Sputnik V vaccine, according to tabloid Ilta-Sanomat.

Read more about this and other stories in Friday’s newspaper review.

6.5 15:43 VR reports more pandemic-fuelled losses

State railway VR reported a loss of almost 15 million euros in January-March 2021. A year ago, the company reported a profit of just under 13 million euros. Sales decreased by more than 18 percent to just under 190 million.

The company cited the Covid pandemic as the main reason for the decline.

More details here.

6.5 12:26 Two million vaccine doses given, 240,000 more to arrive soon

The number of vaccine doses administered has passed the two million mark, Taneli Puumalainen, head of THL’s infectious diseases unit, said at a press conference on Thursday.

The EU target is for 70 percent of the adult population to have received at least a first dose of vaccine by August. According to Puumalainen, Finland will reach this goal earlier. The country has the EU’s second-highest vaccination rate so far, with 39.4 percent of the adult population having received at least one dose.

“During the summer, everyone who wants to should have received the first dose of the vaccine,” Puumalainen said.

At least 240,000 doses are to arrive in Finland in the next few weeks, with the pace of imports accelerating in late May.

6.5 12:10 280 new infections, incidence rate falls to 54

The number of coronavirus cases has continued to decrease, but the decline has slowed, officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) said at a press conference on Thursday morning.

They reported 280 new cases of coronavirus since Wednesday. The incidence rate is now 54 nationally, and below 100 in all hospital districts. The highest is the Helsinki-Uusimaa district (HUS) at 88.

Last week, about 1,350 new cases were reported, about 250 fewer than in the previous week.

6.5 11:29 Pandemic brings more rental flats to Helsinki market

A fall in jobs in service industries during the pandemic has freed up large numbers of rental flats in the Finnish capital, with around 2,000 rentals in Helsinki currently listed online. Read more here.

6.5 9:25 Tourism from Russia is still a big question mark

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat points out that tourism from Russia is still a big question mark, as the country’s infection figures and vaccine coverage are much worse than here, at least for the time being. In addition, the World Health Organisation and the European Medicines Agency are still evaluating the Sputnik V vaccine, so the certificate for Sputnik V is not yet generally accepted as valid. More on that in our review of the Finnish newspaper press.

5.5 13:04 Vaccination pace slows as booster jabs begin

Finland’s vaccination pace is slowing down as a greater number of people start receiving booster doses. Elderly residents and healthcare workers are first in line for the second injection.

Many people in Finland who have received one shot of a coronavirus vaccine are scheduled for a second dose this month. This means fewer vaccines are available for those getting their first jab, even though officials say vaccine deliveries to the country are picking up.

Finland has the EU’s highest vaccination rate besides Hungary, the only member state that is using the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, which has not been approved by the EMA.

More details here.

5.5 12:20 Finland planning to require negative Covid status from arriving passengers

Work is underway at the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on a law that would require foreign visitors to show proof of negative Covid-19 status in order to enter the country.

“We are currently investigating how such a law could be implemented,” said the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Kirsi Varhila.

Read more here.

5.5 12:15 Finland sees 269 cases on Wednesday

There were 269 new lab-confirmed coronavirus infections registered in Finland over the past day on Wednesday, bringing the country’s overall case total to 87,798, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

5.5 11:52 Pori Jazz cancelled again

Organisers of the summertime Pori Jazz music festival have called off the event for the second year in a row due to coronavirus concerns.

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The nine-day music festival was scheduled to be held in the city of Pori on 9-17 July.

Organisers said it was not possible to bring hundreds of thousands of people together amid the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the epidemic.

However, a scaled-down version of the annual gathering is still being planned on 15-17 July, at the city’s Kirjurinluoto park area, dubbed Pori Jazz Plays Again.

A limited number of tickets will go on sale for that event on Friday, 7 May, with arrangements carried out in accordance with the Covid situation and official guidelines.

Meanwhile, Pori Jazz CEO, Miika Ranne, unexpectedly announced his resignation on Wednesday.

Ranne, who has led Pori Jazz for the past three years, told Yle that he and the festival’s board of directors came to the agreement that it would be a natural time to change leadership if the event was cancelled again.

However, he would not disclose details about the reasons behind his departure, or if there was possible conflict within the organisation.

4.5 16:10 Finland sees 184 new cases on Tuesday

Finland recorded 184 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases over the past day on Tuesday, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare THL, continuing a trend of relatively low numbers of new cases in recent weeks.

Most of Tuesday’s cases were diagnosed in the capital region, with 47 in Helsinki, 23 in Vantaa and 20 in Espoo.

Meanwhile, THL reported one new coronavirus-related fatality on Tuesday, bringing the country’s overall Covid death toll to 916.

There were 128 people receiving hospital treatment for Covid-19 as of Tuesday, with 29 patients in intensive care units. Over the past 10 days, the number of Covid patients in hospitals around the country declined by 5.9 percent.

On Monday the daily case figure was even lower, 117.

4.5 11:16 Budget cuts anger culture sector

The government budget framework talks which concluded last week brought news of budget cuts for the arts and culture sector.

The sector in Finland has largely been financed through profits from the state-owned gambling company Veikkaus, but this income has dropped sharply, partly due to the pandemic.

Arts industry representatives called planned cuts “a disappointment” and warned that freelance workers would be hit hardest.

You can read more here.

4.5 9:09 Tuesday’s papers: Saving summer

With a lot of people’s thoughts moving toward this summer and the year’s lowest coronavirus case numbers being reported on Sunday and Monday, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat asks if life will get back to normal this year.

“The trend has been very positive,” Turku University virologist Ilkka Julkkunen told the paper.

Other experts told the tabloid it was possible that many people could celebrate this year’s Midsummer as normal.

But HUS Director of Diagnostics Lasse Lehtonen warned the paper that variants of the virus and the success of the testing regime at Finland’s borders could slow a return to normality.

Read more about this story and more here.

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3.5 18:51 Finland’s car dealers see glimpse of Covid recovery

Signs of a slight improvement in vehicle sales have begun to appear in Finland but April’s levels were still well below normal, according to fresh figures from the Automobile Sector’s Information Centre.

Vehicle sales last month were 6.5 percent below long-term averages, but 47.8 percent higher than April 2020.

Read more here.

3.5 17:05 Ten percent of construction workers exposed to coronavirus, survey finds

There have been several coronavirus-related safety shortcomings at construction sites across the country, according to results of a survey commissioned by the Finnish Construction Trade Union’s Rakentaja (Builder) newspaper.

Around 10 percent of the respondents said they had been exposed to coronavirus while on the job, with 21 percent of that group saying they had been infected by the virus.

Read more here.

3.5 15:29 Ombudsman fields complaints about vaccinations, other pandemic measures

Finland’s Parliamentary Ombudsman has received 82 formal complaints about actions by various authorities concerning the country’s coronavirus vaccination schedule and related topics.

“The range of complaints is broad, but a few issues stand out. There have been many complaints about the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as about the vaccination schedule,” says Lotta Hämeen-Anttila, Senior Secretary to the Ombudsman.

Read the whole story here.

3.5 13:43 Tukes: No harmful chemical concentrations found in consumer face masks

An examination of 21 various protective face masks commercially available in Finland found no harmful concentrations of harmful substances, according to a study led by the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes).

Read more here.

3.5 12:13 Another record low in new infections

The Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported this year’s lowest daily number of new infections on Monday, 117. That follows Sunday’s count of 132 new cases, which was the lowest since 16 November, when 104 new infections were reported. On Saturday, May Day, 288 new Covid infections were announced.

According to the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS), the number of tests and reported infections typically decline on holidays, but about the same number of people took tests on May Day as on a regular Saturday.

3.5 11:35 Restaurant restrictions gradually easing

Restrictions on restaurants and bars may be eased as early as Friday 7 May, but a closer watch is being kept on some regions. Restrictions in regions in the acceleration phase are being assessed with more flexibility than in regions where the pandemic is in the base or the community spreading phases. More on this development here.

3.5 9:48 Growing dissatisfaction with government anti-Covid actions

A poll by the Finnish Business and Policy Forum (Eva) shows that broad-based support for government action to battle the pandemic has faded. In the spring of 2020, a clear majority of voters who back opposition parties also gave their unreserved support to the government’s coronavirus restrictions. This is no longer the case. More on that in our press review.

2.5 13:15 Over 30 percent of population receives vaccine dose

Health officials on Sunday reported that 30.4 percent of the population (1,694,744 individuals) had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

2.5 12:24 Finland records lowest daily case count in almost six months

Public health institute THL on Sunday reported 132 coronavirus infections, bringing total infections in the country to date to 87,228. Sunday’s case count was the lowest reported since 16 November, when 104 new infections occurred.

Most new cases were in the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district (60), followed by the Southwest Finland hospital district (35).

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1.5 16:15 Covid protest broken up

Police say they have broken up a protest against Covid restrictions in central Helsinki. Read our story here.

1.5 12:15 May Day peaceful so far

Police say that the May Day festival had been mostly peaceful on Saturday and Friday night. There were more domestic callouts than usual, but fewer tasks overall than on a normal May Day.

Read our story here.

1.5 12:10 288 new cases

THL says that Finland recorded 288 new Covid infections on Saturday. Altogether there have now been 87,096 infections.

The biggest rise was seen once again in the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district, with 116 new cases. The Päijät-Häme hospital district saw 63 new cases while in Pirkanmaa there were 39.

1.5 12:06 EU concern over Covid stimulus

National Coalition Party leader Petteri Orpo says that he has been contacted by several EU leaders about the party’s decision to abstain on the European Union’s Covid stimulus fund. The measure requires a two-thirds majority in Finland’s parliament. Our story is here.

30.4 14:26 Four hospital districts relax gathering rules

Regional authorities are relaxing restrictions on gatherings in some parts of the country. Public gatherings of up to 50 people can as of Monday go ahead in the hospital districts of Lapland, North Savo, North Karelia and South Savo.

Current rules in these areas have capped meetings at 20 people. Officials are, however, urging people to celebrate May Day close to home and avoid venturing into city centres.

30.4 13:55 One new Covid death

Health officials on Friday contributed one more death to coronavirus. Covid has claimed 914 lives in Finland since the beginning of the country’s epidemic last spring.

30.4 12:00 Finland records 195 new cases

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL on Friday reported 195 new lab-confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing Finland’s total number of infections since the beginning of the pandemic to 86,808.

30.4 10:30 Oulu orders quarantined nurses back to work

Coronavirus infection clusters at two Oulu hospitals had resulted in more than 40 cases by Thursday evening, according to health officials.

Quarantined nurses employed by Oulu city hospital told Yle they were called back in to work to care for Covid patients after seven days owing to staff shortages.

Public health institute THL currently recommends that individuals exposed to the virus quarantine for no less than ten days.

30.4 9:27 Vapaavuori criticises border testing plans

Friday’s media roundup explores Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori‘s criticism of plans to mandate coronavirus tests on ferry passengers entering the country at the Port of Helsinki.

Vapaavuori said queues could stretch five kilometres out to sea as the terminals were not designed to hold people for long periods of time.

More on this story here.

29.4 17:32 Highest incidence rate in southwestern region, authorities urge continuing precautions

The incidence rate in the Southwest Finland region rose to the highest in the country on Wednesday, registering a reported 106.4 per 100,000 residents, surpassing the region of Uusimaa, where it was 106.3 per 100,000. On Thursday those figures were 101.7 for Southwest Finland and 100.5 for Uusimaa, according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). Read more here.

29.4 15:55 International military music festival Hamina Tattoo cancelled

The upcoming Hamina Tattoo military music festival in Hamina has been cancelled due to the circumstances caused by Covid.

Pre-purchased and reserved tickets will not be valid for the 2022 Hamina Tattoo. In a press release, the event organizers stated that there may be changes to the current structures, which might affect the number of seats in the stands.

Hamina Tattoo will be in touch with those who have reserved or purchased a ticket with information on how to proceed. The next Hamina Tattoo will be held 11-16 July 2022.

Kotka Maritime Days also announced today that the event will be cancelled for 2021.

29.4 13:02 Indian Covid variant reaches Finland

The so-called India Covid variant, B.1.617, has been detected in three positive Covid samples in Finland. Read more here.

29.4 11:09 39 cases in infection clusters at Oulu hospitals

Nearly 40 people have contracted the coronavirus in an infection cluster linked to two hospitals in the northern city of Oulu.

A total of 11 people have been diagnosed with Covid infections at Oulu University Hospital (OYS), while 28 cases had been reported at Oulu City Hospital as of Wednesday afternoon. The first infections were detected at OYS a week ago, and infections related to the same chain were later also detected at the city hospital.

Five of those infected at OYS are patients while six are employees, said Juha Korpelainen, Chief Physician of the Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District.

In February and March, Oulu City Hospital suffered an extensive Covid outbreak, resulting in more than 100 infections and 19 deaths.

29.4 10:52 Kotka Maritime Festival to be cancelled

One of Finland’s biggest annual summer events, the Kotka Maritime Festival (Kotkan Meripäivät) is likely to be cancelled this year, as recommended by a top city leadership council. The city council is to make the final decision on 17 May.

The event in the southeastern port city attracts some 200,000 visitors annually. This year’s festival was to have been held in late July in the Sapokka harbour district and at the Arto Tolsa Arena. It has been held since 1962, so next year will mark its 50th anniversary.

29.4 10:30 Private gyms re-open in worst-hit pandemic areas

As of Thursday, fitness and recreational centres were allowed to re-open after a four-week closure in the areas that had the highest infection rates.

According to the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland (AVI), “the use of the premises must comply with hygiene requirements and ensure that participants or customers have the opportunity to maintain safe distances”.

The agency ordered sports and recreational venues to be closed on 1 April. The ruling covered the hospital districts of Helsinki and Uusimaa, South Karelia, Kanta-Häme and Päijät-Häme. Prior to the full closure, which was made possible by the new Infectious Diseases Act, gyms were allowed to remain open if no more than 10 people were training at a time.

29.4 9:47 Wide variation in vaccination coverage

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports that vaccination coverage in Finland now ranges from a low of 16.4 percent in Liminka in the North Ostrobothnia region to 50.2 percent in Puumala, South Savo. Meanwhile Aamulehti notes it was officially confirmed on Tuesday that a national coronavirus vaccination certificate will be introduced in Finland at the end of May. More in our review of the Finnish press.

For previous updates, click here

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