Finland to lift coronavirus lockdown in region around capital
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin. /Virginia Mayo/AP Photo

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin. /Virginia Mayo/AP Photo

Finland will lift roadblocks in the region around its capital Helsinki from Wednesday, 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 28 March 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. The government nevertheless recommended people avoid all unnecessary travel, she said.

Uusimaa has been the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Finland, but the spread of the disease has leveled 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 13 May. Restaurants will remain closed until the end of May, except for takeaway sales.

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

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

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

Sign up here to get the COVID-19 Europe bulletin sent directly to your inbox

Source(s): Reuters