HELSINKI, Oct. 6 (Xinhua) -- As COVID-19 continues to take its toll in Finland, the collateral damage caused by the restrictions on businesses is becoming an increasingly divisive issue.
Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin pledged on Tuesday that "wide-ranging measures" are being prepared in the country to limit the spread of the coronavirus. She gave no details but said that the matter would be discussed next week.
At the same time, Jan Vapaavuori, mayor of the capital Helsinki, spoke out against restrictions on businesses that would impact the economy. Appearing jointly with other mayors from the metropolitan area surrounding Helsinki in a press conference, Vapaavuori said that the crisis was "not only a health issue, but also an economic and social issue." He said there was need for better communication with the prime minister.
Krista Kiuru, minister of family affairs and social services, said on Tuesday that "no one wants to return" to a situation where the government has emergency powers, like in spring this year. Talking to reporters in parliament, she said the government supported the regions "in their task to apply the laws on communicable diseases."
On Tuesday, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) said that the national incidence rate was around 30 cases per 100,000 inhabitants within two weeks. In the Helsinki area, it was 53 cases per 100,000. Nearly all of the country's 20 health districts had entered, or were near to, the acceleration phase of the pandemic.
Tuesday's number of new infections, 227, was the highest since the spring, THL Director Mika Salminen said. The number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in Finland stands at 10,929 with 346 deaths.
The closing time of restaurants has become a subject of debate nationwide, creating a conundrum of how to balance health and economic interests.
While restaurants throughout country must stop serving alcohol at 12 midnight from Thursday, this blanket rule comes coupled with another regulation, which obliges restaurants in "areas of acceleration" to stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m.
It is up to regional coordination groups comprising medical experts and state and local politicians to determine the "phase of the epidemic" in their areas. The groups are expected to come to a conclusion and inform the THL, Taneli Puumalainen, the institute's chief physician, said.
Meanwhile, several districts have published recommendations on face mask use in public spaces for the whole or part of their regions. Finnish laws do not allow public authorities to enforce mask use, but private shop owners can mandate it. Enditem