On 16th March 2020, the Finnish government declared a state of emergency, which authorises the Parliament to restrict civil rights and social functions to contain the spread of coronavirus to protect the population and secure the national economy. The state of emergency should have remained in force until 13th April, but at the end of March, it was extended until 13th May.
Since the same day, the Parliament of Finland closed all schools and universities, except for children in grades 1-3, whose parents work in jobs essential for the functioning of the society (healthcare personnel, police, etc.). Also, the day-care centres remained open, but if parents can keep children at home, what is an advised option. Besides that, all non-essential shops, libraries, cinemas, museums, galleries and other sport and cultural places including churches, and from 28th March also all restaurants and bars are closed. In public places, no more than ten people may gather. Wearing face masks is not obligatory, but is highly recommended.
To help the economy, the government announced EUR 15 billion support package for businesses and individuals, including government grants and financial assistance. Furthermore, the support package includes several tools, which may relieve the companies and individuals until the economy is shut down (for example temporary payment reliefs, extended time for filing tax notifications, postponing payments and lowering interest rates, repayment reliefs for loans, etc.)
Since 19th March the cross-border movement (in or out of the country) is banned for both Finnish citizens and foreigners. The transport of goods remains functional. However, since 14th May Finland is gradually opening borders, for all EU Schengen citizens, who have permanent work contracts in the country or have any other essential reason to enter the country, but they need to stay for 14 days in quarantine-like conditions. Also, foreign tourists may leave the country. The movement inside Finland is not banned, but all non-essential activities should be stopped and people should stay at home.
According to Finland´s Institute for Health and Welfare’s decision, since 7th April, random testing on working-age capital area residents to determine how many residents already possess coronavirus antibodies has begun. The institute is testing a randomly-selected sample of 750 people each week, and later during spring, the testing should expand to all age groups and regions. The testing is being held in health agencies, which are researching in cooperation with the country´s university hospitals.
The restrictions will be gradually lifted since 14th May in accordance with the so-called hybrid strategy. Besides lifting measures for cross-border movement as mentioned above, since the 1st June, all restaurants, bars, museums, theatres, libraries, and other cultural and sport places will be opened, but in a controlled and gradual manner. Since the same date, fifty people may gather in public or private places, and public events with more than five hundred people are prohibited until 31st July. The upper secondary schools, universities and other educational institutions will be able to resume teaching since 14th May, but it is advised to these institutions to continue in distance teaching until the end of the semester.
The Finnish nation does not have problems with medical equipment supplies, as it has been stockpiling these supplies since the 1950s. Their stockpile is considered as one of the best in Europe. The exact number and localization are however classified.
Written by Michal Andruch, April 2020.