HELSINKI (Reuters) – Finland’s government on Thursday confirmed it was extending by a month most of the restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The extension until May 13 had been expected after a previous statement at the end of March that the government would extend its ban on public meetings of more than 10 people and the closure of public services such as schools for most students.
Restaurants, which were closed from April 4, also will remain shut until the end of May, excluding takeaway sales.
However, the government is considering lifting restrictions on non-essential traffic to and from the Uusimaa region around Finland’s capital Helsinki.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin told national television YLE late on Wednesday the Uusimaa closure, in place since March 28, was not likely to be extended beyond April 19. “I believe it will end then. The spread of the disease will level out in different parts of the country in the way that I don’t believe this restriction measure will be continued,” she said.
The aim had been to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus from its epicentre around Helsinki to other parts of the country.
But the virus had already spread before the capital region’s closure, making the measure less effective and costly to maintain, with hundreds of policemen and conscripts deployed day and night at roadblocks around Uusimaa.
(Reporting by Anne Kauranen; editing by Jane Merriman and Barbara Lewis)