Bars, pubs and nightclubs should be closed in Finnish capital region, says THL

THE FINNISH INSTITUTE for Health and Welfare (THL) is recommending that bars, pubs and nightclubs in the capital region be shut down for three weeks effective as soon as possible.

THL on Thursday argued that the drastic measure is warranted, for example, because a number of large chains of infection have been traced back to bars and private events, and because coronavirus infections have risen especially among 19–34-year-olds.

Residents of the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) should also avoid travelling outside the district until 14 March to curb the spread of especially the coronavirus variant discovered in Great Britain. HUS has accounted for roughly 70 per cent of the 450 infections caused by the more transmissible variants in Finland, according to THL.

Taneli Puumalainen, the head of infectious diseases control at THL, reminded yesterday in a press conference that there is a clear difference in the epidemiological situation between the capital region and rest of Finland.

The incidence of the coronavirus has nearly doubled in the capital region in the past four weeks, rising to almost 186 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, but mostly declined in other hospital districts.

“Because of the British variant, which is more transmissible than other virus variants, the risk of the epidemic accelerating has risen in all of Finland,” stated Puumalainen. “More and more of it is found in Uusimaa.”

HUS on Wednesday expressed its support for introducing stricter restrictions on public gatherings in the capital region, highlighting that new coronavirus variants account for nearly a half of detected cases.

THL on Thursday reported that the number of laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 614 to 52,209 between Wednesday and Thursday. Out of the 450 cases caused by new strains of the virus, 427 have been caused by the British, 22 by the South African and one by the Brazilian variant.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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Finnish pubs, nightclubs to face stricter restrictions than cafés, restaurants

THE SOCIAL AFFAIRS and Health Committee of the Parliament has finalised its proposal on restricting the operations of restaurants in Finland.

Markus Lohi (Centre), the chairperson of the Social Affairs and Health Committee, on Tuesday said the committee agreed unanimously that the restrictions should vary based on the primary purpose of the establishments as of 1 November.

The strictest restrictions, he said, would be targeted at bars, pubs, nightclubs and other establishments the primary purpose of which is to serve alcohol.

The decree drafted by the committee would enable regional authorities to prohibit such establishments from bringing in more than 50 per cent of their usual full capacity. The capacities of cafés and restaurants, in turn, could be limited to 75 of usual full capacity if necessitated by the regional epidemiological situation.

The division is justified by the heightened risk of infection in certain types of restaurant settings, argued the Social Affairs and Health Committee.

“The strictest restrictions will be targeted at restaurants that, from the perspective of combating the coronavirus epidemic, pose a highly likely risk of contact between customers,” Lohi was quoted as saying in a press conference by YLE.

The restrictions can also be scaled based on the regional number of coronavirus infections, according to Helsingin Sanomat. The decree will be formulated in a way that the restrictions will, in principle, only be in effect in areas where they are necessary, meaning they would vary depending on whether the area is in the basic, acceleration or spreading stage of the epidemic.

Lohi added that the term ‘area’ has not been delineated in the proposal, revealing that it can apply to a region, hospital district or municipality depending on the circumstances.

Regional authorities will also be able to limit the opening and serving hours of restaurants in an attempt to slow down the spread of the new coronavirus. High-risk restaurants, for example, can be ordered to close their doors at 11pm, 12am or 1am on grounds of a regional epidemiological assessment.

The restrictions will not be applied to restaurants in conjunction with service stations, for example.

The Finnish Hospitality Association (Mara) described the proposal as a step in the right direction in that it takes better into account the constitutional rights of entrepreneurs and employees in the restaurant industry.

It is nevertheless critical, however, that the restrictions are justified with accurate and up-to-date data on exposures and infections from the government and health care authorities.

Timo Lappi, the managing director at Mara, highlighted that the proposal provides the government with considerable leeway in deciding on the restrictions, which – he underlined – must be necessary and proportionate according to the Constitutional Law Committee.

“If the coronavirus situation is well under control in one region, it should have no restrictions,” he summed up in a press release.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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Coronavirus: Malta closes all bars and nightclubs

Authorities in Malta have ordered the closure of all nightclubs and bars in an attempt to stem a new coronavirus outbreak on the island.

The measure will come into force on Wednesday, Health Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne announced on Monday.

Discos, night bars, concert halls and also sports clubs will have to close their doors until further notice, but restaurants and shops remain open, while public gatherings remain limited to 15 people.

“All these measures are based on the principle of social distancing. We felt that they had to be strengthened in several areas”, explained the Director of Health, Charmaine Gauci.

The number of COVID-19 cases has constantly increased during the last month.

There are current 607 active cases in Malta, almost half of the total number of infections recorded since the epidemic broke out on the island on March 7.

Nine people have died and two are currently hospitalised in intensive care.

A hotel party and a traditional village meal were identified as possible sources of the new outbreak.

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Coronavirus: Italy closes nightclubs, makes masks mandatory at night

The Italian government moved to make masks mandatory between 18:00 and 6:00 in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus after recording more than 600 cases in a single day.

The country, which was the first in Europe to institute a lockdown, also closed nightclubs amid the uptick in cases.

Vacationers in Rome coming from Croatia, Greece, Malta or Spain are also now tested for coronavirus upon arrival in the country.

The new restrictions comes as European countries have seen a concerning resurgence in cases.

France recorded more than 3,300 new cases in 24 hours, the highest number reported since May.

The French government announced plans to increase social distancing measures in workplaces, including encouraging people to wear masks in the office and if possible, work from home.

It comes as Paris and Marseille, the largest two cities in the country both were classified as areas with an “active circulation of the virus”.

Pressure is mounting on the French government to extend its mask mandate, which currently only applies to closed indoor spaces, although many cities now require them in open markets and crowded areas.

Labour minister Elisabeth Borne said in the Journal du dimanche that the country must avoid a new lockdown.

Spain, meanwhile, closed nightclubs as its incidence rate of COVID-19 rose per 100,000 people.

There has been an average of 115 cases per 100,000 people in Spain over the past two weeks, according to the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

WHO reports record daily number of global cases

There were more than 294,000 new cases of COVID-19 recorded globally on Saturday, according to World Health Organization figures.

The record number of cases reflects more than 160,000 in the Americas and nearly 30,000 in Europe amid a resurgence in several countries.

Globally, there have been more than 21 million confirmed cases so far of the virus that has killed more than 770,000 people.

The most heavily impacted countries remain the United States, Brazil and India.

New outbreaks in countries praised for virus response

South Korea reported 279 new cases of coronavirus in 24 hours, the country’s highest increase in in confirmed cases since March 8.

Most of the cases were located in Seoul where officials have been working to stem transmission linked to churches, nursing homes, schools, restaurants and door-to-door salespeople.

New Zealand, also viewed worldwide as a success story in controlling the coronavirus, is fighting a new outbreak in Auckland after going 102 days without a coronavirus case.

The outbreak has risen to 49 cases that appear to be traced to the one cluster.

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