Finland eyes movement restrictions as virus cases spike

Helsinki, March 25 (AFP/APP): Finland’s prime minister on Wednesday announced a new draft law to restrict movements in capital Helsinki, hoping to stem a recent spike in novel coronavirus infections.

Sanna Marin’s office released a new lockdown bill which would prevent people in both Helsinki and the town of Turku from visiting others’ homes and taking part in group sports. According to public broadcaster Yle the proposed law — which may go before parliament as soon as Thursday and would remain in force until the middle of May — would mean residents are only be allowed to leave their homes under certain circumstances like food shopping, going to work or school or visiting banks and post offices.

Masks would also be made compulsory on public transport and police would be given powers to ask individuals why they are outside their homes, with fines for non-compliance with the new rules. Speaking to Yle on Wednesday Marin described the measures as “imperative” to reduce the burden on hospitals. “We need to look ahead, if we are too slow to act then the health service will suffer,” she said.

Until recently, the Nordic country of 5.5 million has seen one of Europe’s lowest incidence rates of Covid-19, believed to in part be down to Finland’s low population density and Finns’ adherence to official anti-virus and distancing guidelines, which so far have been recommendations rather than law.

Finland has so far recorded 73,516 cases of the virus and 811 deaths. But infection rates have been rising, with 172 new cases per 100,000 people in the last two weeks, higher than Spain, the United Kingdom and Ireland, according to WHO data.

With broad cross-party approval, the restrictions are widely expected to be passed by MPs.

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