Finland to lift COVID-19 lockdown in region around Helsinki

Finland to lift COVID-19 lockdown in region around Helsinki

Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo, Prime Minister San
FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister Sanna Marin attends a news conference on COVID-19 in Helsinki (Lehtikuva/Mikko Stig via Reuters)

HELSINKI: Finland will lift roadblocks in the region around its capital, Helsinki, on Wednesday (Apr 15), Prime Minister Sanna Marin said, in a first step towards easing coronavirus-related restrictions.

Travel restrictions to and from Uusimaa, the capital region, to the rest of the country began on Mar 28, to prevent people from spreading the virus to other parts of the country.

Marin said the government no longer had legal grounds to continue the lockdown, considering it an extreme measure to restrict people's freedom of movement so strictly.

"It is no longer an absolutely necessary restriction measure in the way required in the Emergency Powers Act," Marin said. 

READ: COVID-19: How some countries are preparing to ease their lockdowns

The government nevertheless recommended people avoid all unnecessary travel, she said.

Uusimaa has been the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Finland, but the spread of the disease has levelled out between regions in the past weeks, making the capital region's lockdown less effective and less justifiable.

"On the basis of collected data, the accumulation of disease cases can be restricted with other existing measures," said Maria Ohisalo, the minister of the interior.

The other measures in place include closing schools and public places such as libraries until May 13. Restaurants will remain closed until the end of May, except for takeaway sales.

READ: Spain, Austria ease curbs but WHO warns COVID-19 outbreak 'certainly' has not peaked

By Tuesday, Finland had 3,161 confirmed coronavirus cases and 64 deaths, with 232 COVID-19 patients hospitalised, 162 of them in the capital region.

"The restrictive measures have clearly slowed down the disease's spreading," Health Security Director Mika Salminen of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare said.

Salminen said the number of hospitalised patients and those in intensive care had risen, but so far the public healthcare system had not run out of resources to treat all patients in any region. 

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Source: Reuters/lk