The restrictions are introduced in areas where the pandemic can no longer be prevented using the existing measures.

Annika Saarikko (the Centre), minister of science and culture, arriving at the House of the Estates in Helsinki, where the government discussed coronavirus restrictions on movement on Monday, March 22, 2021. Photograph: Tony Öhberg/Finland Today

The government has submitted a proposal to Parliament on Thursday that would place temporary restrictions on freedom of movement and close contacts and introduce a mask mandate in the areas worst affected by Covid-19.

“The main objective,” according to the government’s statement, “is to reduce the number of encounters and close contacts between people in areas where Covid-19 is spreading rapidly and uncontrollably.”

Speaking in a press conference on Thursday, Mika Salminen, director of health and security at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), referred to the restrictions of movement as the last tool in the toolbox to limit the spreading of the virus.

The government describes the pandemic situation in the hospital districts of Helsinki and Uusimaa “so severe that if the incidence of the disease increases at the current rate, the need for medical care will grow significantly, and there is a 50–75 percent chance that we will exceed the carrying capacity of specialized healthcare over the next few weeks.”

The new virus variants are significantly more transmissible than the original virus that was spreading at the beginning of the pandemic. The government estimates that the risk to catch an infection of a new coronavirus variant is around 30 to 50 percent more likely.

Health authorities estimate that two-thirds of all new Covid-19 cases in Helsinki and Uusimaa are caused by new virus variants, while the corresponding figure for Southwest Finland is almost half.

The act is set to enter into force as soon as possible. According to sources in Parliament, it is likely that the act would become effective after the Easter holidays. The act would not apply in the autonomous region of Åland.

Here’s how the restrictions will affect the life of a citizen.

In areas where the restrictions on movement are in force, people would only be allowed to leave their homes or places of residence for essential reasons or outdoor recreation.

People could move around outdoors for recreational or fitness purposes with others belonging to the same household or at most two other persons. While doing outdoor activities, it is important to keep a safe distance from other people. Walking pets would be allowed.

Children born in 2008 or later would be allowed to do outdoor activities and play outside with other children.

One is always allowed to return to your home or place of residence. People living in areas where the restrictions are in force would be allowed to leave their municipality of residence only for essential reasons. The same would apply to people from other municipalities entering areas where the restrictions are in place.

Movement would also be permitted if for those leaving or entering the country

The restrictions could be imposed for a maximum period of 21 days, and they would only be in force for as long as necessary. They could be extended for a maximum of 21 days at a time.

The government’s legislative proposal would also introduce a mask mandate in areas where the restrictions on movement are in force. In line with the proposal, all people born in 2007 or before must wear a face mask while in indoor spaces and means of transport with persons other than those belonging to the same household. The police could impose a fixed fine of €40 for violation of the mask mandate.

Essential movement would be permitted for the following reasons:

  1. to purchase food and drink, medicines, fuel or other items of similar importance for everyday life

     2. to handle banking matters and to collect and send mail and other items

    3. to access healthcare or social welfare services or official services that cannot be accessed remotely

    4. to perform duties related to a post or employment relationship or to pursue trade or business activities

     5. to participate in early childhood education and care

6. to participate in education or in upper secondary general education, vocational training or higher education, or to take an entrance exam, aptitude test, matriculation examination test or other similar test required for such education.

    7. to carry out tasks related to a public position of trust, to participate in a meeting of a private corporation or foundation, to perform the duties of a member of an institution or to represent a corporation or foundation in situations where deferring this participation, performance or representation could cause damage to the corporation or foundation, a shareholder or member, or any other person

     7. to perform military service or meet another statutory obligation

     8. in connection with the need for care, risk of death, or the death or funeral of a family member or other close person, to provide assistance and support to a child or to fulfill the right of access to a child, to provide assistance and support to a person with a disability, or for reasons related to an established relationship or other comparable reasons

     9. for a private meeting of a spiritual nature with a representative of a religious community

     10. for the maintenance or servicing of a building, property or vehicle owned or controlled by a person, or to move to another place of residence

    11. to care for an animal for which a person is responsible

    12. to travel to a leisure home owned or under long-term possession by a person

  13. to perform rescue services

Police supervise

Police would be responsible for monitoring compliance with restrictions on movement

Upon request from the police, people would need to provide an account of their destination and their reason for moving around outside.

The police could not prevent a person from moving outside for an essential reason provided in the decree. The police could order crowds to disperse, apprehend persons violating the restrictions and impose a fine for the violation.