The Finnish government has decided to impose stricter measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (the SDP) at the government meeting on imposing stricter restrictions to tackle the rapid spreading of coronvirus variants in Finland at the House of the Estates on February 25, 2021. Photograph: Laura Kotila/The Finnish Government

The government and the president prepare to declare a state of emergency in Finland.

This means:

Restaurants will close for three weeks. Takeout will be allowed.

The upper grades of comprehensive school will transfer to distance learning.

Group hobbies of over 12-year-olds will be suspended.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (the SDP) said in a press conference on Thursday morning that it is necessary to take new precautionary measures to tackle a worsening coronavirus pandemic. The virus mutations are spreading rapidly.

Marin said that the mutations are spreading, partly, because some of the restrictions in place have been “lifted too early,” and, largely, because people are “having too many social contacts.” From these encounters, people are bringing the virus home.

The state of emergency allows a partial shutdown. However, unlike implementing the Emergency Powers Act, it doesn’t allow imposing restrictions, such as curfews—and according to the Marin the government aims to avoid such drastic measures until the very end. (Marin added that the government is ready to invoke the Emergency Powers Act should the pandemic situation become worse.)

Instead, the government is going to move to the next stage (tier 2) in their action plan to prevent the accelerated spreading of the virus variants.

Between March 8 and 28, the new restrictions will become effective in regions currently in community transmission phase of the pandemic.

These include Helsinki Helsinki and Uusimaa, Southwest Finland, Satakunta, Kanta-Häme, Vaasa, Åland and Lapland.

Also, the restrictions are recommended to be imposed in areas currently in acceleration phase. These include East Savo, South Karelia, Pirkanmaa, Central Finland, Päijät-Häme, Länsi-Pohja, North Ostrobothnia, South Ostrobothnia and Kymenlaakso.

Prime Minister Marin added that after the restrictions will continue after March, in one form or another.

Marin said that because of the precautionary measures and their right timing, Finland has been able to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus better than some other European countries. The plan is to slow down the pandemic as much as possible until people get vaccinated.

So far, 319,359 Finns have received the first dose of a vaccine (population 5.5 million), and while the speed of vaccination has been slower than expected, authorities estimate that about two million people would have received the first dose by the end of April. (Two doses needed.)

Meanwhile, according to Marin, “we are going to do our everything to have a better summer.”