Finland is to remove all Covid restrictions in February, Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced on Monday. Yle News has more.
Following decisions reached last week, some Covid-related restrictions are to be eased this week.
Starting on Tuesday, February 1st, establishments that primarily serve food will be allowed to stay open until 9pm. But, establishments that mainly serve alcoholic beverages will still be required to stop alcohol sales at 5pm and shut down for the day at 6pm.
Restaurants will be able to retain the right to require Covid passes from customers as a condition of admission. On the other hand, use of the passes will not exempt restaurants from restrictions on alcohol sales and opening hours, at least until mid-February.
Public gyms and swimming pools in the Uusimaa region will also be permitted to operate starting on Tuesday.
Starting on Tuesday, regulations at Finland’s borders for passengers arriving from Schengen Area countries as well as non-Schengen EU member states will be lifted.
It follows Denmark’s move to repeal all pandemic laws as of February 1st and return to “life as we knew it“, having determined COVID-19 is no longer “a threatening disease for society”. The question is, why is Finland going slowly, if it, too, has determined the pandemic is over? The extent to which Finland follows through with full repeal will become clear in the coming weeks.
Perhaps the slower place is because Finland is currently experiencing some of its highest levels of infections, hospitalisations and deaths to date. Test positivity is at its highest, though appears to have stopped rising.
Covid hospital occupancy is more than twice as high as at any other point in the pandemic – though how many are incidental admissions being treated primarily for other conditions?
Covid ICU occupancy is also high, though again, how many are incidental?
The winter and Omicron wave is also Finland’s deadliest, despite widespread vaccination and the mildness of Omicron.
Excess mortality has also been running high since the summer – interestingly, far higher than Covid deaths.
However, Finland is one of the European countries with the lowest death toll in the pandemic so far.
The fact that Finland is lifting restrictions despite being in the middle of its biggest and deadliest coronavirus outbreak, and with excess deaths running high, is an encouraging sign that fear and panic may be subsiding and level-headed decision-making returning. Let’s hope it’s catching.