Click to view gallery. Photographs: Tony Öhberg/Finland Today

After hearing rumors about Helsinki moving to the spreading phase in the coronavirus pandemic, we decided to take a spin in the city center on Wednesday morning to observe the streets that should be busy.

To our surprise, only a few mask-wearing people were lingering along one of the main streets, under the Christmas lights that seemed to have been turned on too early. A lonely man was snapping selfies at the deserted Senate Square, which typically swarmed with tourists even in the late autumn or early winter.

Most people were found on one of the side streets enveloped between 19th-century government buildings. They were climate activists who sat on the wet blacktop under a calm, warm wind that the meteorologists had described as “exceptional.”

The cafeterias seemed empty. Many shops were closed. Some permanently.

The following day, on Thursday, November 19, the mayors of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa—three major cities in the capital region—declared that the coronavirus, indeed, was spreading rapidly and more restrictions were to follow.

A man snapping a selfie in front of the Helsinki Cathedral at the deserted Senate Square that was a popular tourist magnet before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Photograph: Tony Öhberg/Finland Today

A passenger waiting to get on the tram at Aleksanterinkatu. Christmas lights are already illuminating the street. Photograph: Tony Öhberg/Finland Today

The police are observing a protest by climate activists. Photograph: Tony Öhberg/Finland Today

 A protester is ready to demand changes in the common agricultural policy of the European Union just around the corner of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland. Photograph: Tony Öhberg/Finland Today

About 80 members of the international Elokapina climate activist group sat on the wet asphalt of Mariankatu and stopped the traffic for five hours. Photograph: Tony Öhberg/Finland Today

A remote worker didn’t have difficulties in finding a seat at an empty cafeteria in downtown Helsinki. Photograph: Tony Öhberg/Finland Today

Bars and nightclubs are closed in the morning and will shut their doors well before midnight. Photograph: Tony Öhberg/Finland Today