Here's our evening round-up of the latest coronavirus news from Finland
Latest coronavirus figures
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL says there have been 2,308 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Finland. That's up from 132 people from yesterday and reflects an increased testing rate which authorities hope to reach more than 4,000 per day in the next few weeks.
So far 34 people have died from the virus with their average age 84 years old.
The majority of cases are still in Uusimaa region in the south of Finland which had travel restrictions imposed by the government at the end of March. The idea is to stop people in the capital city region traveling unnecessarily and possibly spreading the virus.
THL says there are currently 231 patients in hospital around the country, with 83 in intensive care.
New international border restrictions come into place
The government has announced a tightening of Finland’s borders with Norway and Sweden until the middle of May, and a recommendation to stop selling ferry tickets to Estonia.
In the northern border region, the aim is to reduce movements to only travel for work that is strictly necessary, and employees must now carry a certificate from their employer stating that the work is essential.
The new rules don’t essential medical or rescue personnel, or freight truck drivers, and speaking at a Tuesday morning press briefing ministers said that a large number of healthcare personnel travel from Finland to Sweden and the government doesn’t want to leave Sweden lacking those staff.
“For its part, Sweden is ready to commit to more extensive testing and increase the amount of protective equipment in healthcare” facilities says Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green).
Anyone arriving across the border from Sweden or Norway into Finland must follow Finnish healthcare instructions and go into quarantine for 14 days. Read more.
"A major problem for Åland" - Turku doctors & nurses help fill the gaps
Doctors and nurses from Turku are being sent to Mariehamn to support local healthcare services, as cross-border restrictions lead to staff shortages in Åland.
Around a quarter of doctors and nurses working at Åland Central Hospital live in Sweden, with many commuting on a weekly basis between the Swedish mainland and Åland. Under new restrictions on cross-border travel, as foreigners coming to Finland they would have to self-isolate for 14 days.
“That’s a major problem for Åland” says local MP Mats Löfström (SFP).
“With this quarantine it means the Åland hospital will be lacking ten doctors and between 20 to 30 nurses” he explains.
The Swedish-speaking staff coming from Turku to Åland to help on a temporary basis are of course not subject to any quarantine. Read more.
"The risks are high" as millions of masks arrive from China
A shipment of protective face masks has arrived in Finland from China to better equip healthcare workers tackling the coronavirus epidemic.
Pallets with two million face masks, and 230,000 higher grade surgical masks, arrived in Helsinki from Quangzhou China on Tuesday afternoon.
It’s the first shipment of 12 plane-loads of protective gear ordered by the National Emergency Supply Agency NESA. Most of the masks will be distributed quickly to hospitals, but the higher grade items will need to go through quality control tests first.
“We have now ordered 12 Airbus A350s full of material, and this is just the beginning” says Tomi Lounema, CEO of NESA, who adds that the deal is costing "millions and millions" of euros.
Lounema says it is a “quite chaotic situation” in China with different countries and agencies competing for the same supplies.
“You have to pay first, then you get what you get. This situation is totally not normal. The risks are very high when you operate in this market” he says.
"We hope the material we get today is okay but I’m afraid in the future we will get some materials that are not okay. But that is the situation." Read more.
Nationwide antibody testing begins
THL is launching a coronavirus antibody testing study, to see how far the virus might have spread among the general population, in all age groups and locations.
Antibodies are formed when someone has already had the virus, and can protect against a new infection.
THL will randomly invite people to become part of their study, which is carried out in collaboration with hospital districts and the results can show not only people who had confirmed Covid-19 diagnosis, but also those who didn't show any symptoms or who had mild symptoms and were never tested for the virus.
Government meets for two days of coronavirus budget talks
Government ministers are meeting for two days of budget talks largely focused on how much to spend to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Arriving at the House of the Estate in Helsinki on Tuesday, Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) said that the most important task for the government “is to overcome the crisis with the least possible damage.”
However, Marin said that the middle of the coronavirus crisis was not the time to completely scrap the government’s policy programme.
Finance Minister Katri Kulmuni (Centre) said on Tuesday that the state will incur billions of euros of debts to tackle the fallout from coronavirus, and economists say that clarity about restrictions on businesses and movements around the country make it easier to move on to the next steps of helping businesses.
“The situation is now so acute that it kind of hits everyone. I’m not surprised that there are lots of things happening in small firms, medium firms and big companies” explains Sami Pakarinen, Chief Economic Policy Advisor at the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK.
“It’s firstly a health problem, secondly we see the downturn in manufacturing, and now this third wave we see coronavirus hitting very quickly to the service sector and this is a totally new situation” he says. Read more.