Finland to reopen restaurants and speed up COVID-19 vaccination

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The Finnish government has decided that restaurants across the country will open next week after most have been closed for six weeks. In addition, the country is set to temporarily focus on COVID-19 vaccinations for the worst affected areas.

Restaurants could open nationwide on Monday, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health said.

Finland closed public restaurants in most parts of the country for three weeks in early March, in response to the worsening COVID-19 situation, then extended the ban to another three weeks.

The reopening of restaurants will be subject to certain restrictions, including opening hours, customer movement in the restaurant and the number of seats. The restrictions will vary from province to province depending on the local epidemic situation.

Medical experts said the decision to close most restaurants was a key factor in turning the tide of infections in Finland. But the Finnish Hotel Association feared that the reduction in hours and capacity would have an additional impact on the industry.

Also on Friday, as part of a policy change on vaccinations, the government authorized a concentration of vaccines in areas with high infection. The change is valid until the end of May.

According to a government decree, vaccines from Moderna and AstraZeneca will be used. However, the initial vaccination of people over 70 and at risk groups should have been done first.

According to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), around 23% of the country’s population had been vaccinated with the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, and 2% had completed the vaccination.

Finland recorded 380 topical cases on Friday, while the death toll rose by two to 887, according to the THL. In the past two weeks, the number of new infections is 3,167 less than in the previous 2-week cycle.

Eeva Ruotsalainen, deputy chief medical officer of the Helsinki-Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS), which covers 24 municipalities in southern Finland, including the capital region, told national radio Yle that there had “no sighs of relief yet”.

“There are still some 1,500 new infections per week in the HUS area while the target should be around 50 per week as was the case last June,” she said.

As the world struggles to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in a growing number of countries with already licensed coronavirus vaccines.

At the same time, 272 vaccine candidates are still in development around the world – including 88 in clinical trials – in countries like Germany, China, Russia, Britain and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on April 16.



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