Just three months ago, Finland had Europe’s lowest average of Covid-19 infections and deaths per capita, and had managed to contain local outbreaks while sticking to some of the most relaxed restrictions on the continent.
But now it’s facing a new surge — and the government has changed tack.
On Monday, Finland’s government declared a state of emergency due to a sharp rise in cases that they have attributed partially to the spread of new variants.
The country will go into a three-week lockdown on March 8, according to Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
In a statement, the government said:
“The number and incidence of Covid-19 cases in Finland have risen very rapidly since the beginning of February 2021. The number of infections caused by new virus variants has clearly increased, which may further accelerate the epidemic and place significant strain on hospital and intensive care capacity if we are unable to bring the number of infections down.”
The strictest restrictions were already introduced in seven hospital districts last Thursday, including in the capital, Helsinki.
Across the border in Norway, officials are also tightening restrictions due to a surge of cases in the capital that Oslo City Council called “a consequence of the import of mutated variants of the coronavirus.”
The new virus variants spread faster than previous variants,” Oslo City Councilor Raymond Johansen said in a Sunday statement.
“This means that we now have to tighten up infection control measures in line with the recommendations of national health authorities.
From Tuesday until March 15, the new measures in Oslo include: the closing of all restaurants, except for take-away services; and shuttering all stores, except pharmacies and grocery/liquor stores.
From Monday, Oslo students attending upper secondary schools will stay at home and on Wednesday, all schools will be run with a combination of traditional and virtual learning.
The council added that is introducing the mass testing of students with saliva samples from March 8, and the increased testing of all teachers.