Tuesday. 06.06.2023

Finnish government to impose movement restrictions and mandatory masks

The police could impose a fine of 40 euros for violation of the mask mandate.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin and THL's Health Security Director Mika Salminen. Photo: Lauri Heikkinen/Vnk.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin (L) and THL's Health Security Director Mika Salminen. Photo: Lauri Heikkinen/Vnk.

Restrictions on freedom of movement and mandatory use of masks have also reached Finland. And at the risk of being fined by the police, if they are not complied with.

On Thursday 25 March, the government headed by the Social Democrat Sanna Marin sent a bill to Parliament proposing restrictions on freedom of movement and forcing the use of face masks in those areas where the Covid-19 disease is spreading faster and "it cannot be controlled by other measures."

According to government information, the main goal is to reduce close contacts with other people in areas where coronavirus is spreading "rapidly and uncontrollably" to protect people's health and to ensure the capacity of the healthcare system.

In the first stage, these restrictions would most likely apply to the cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen and Turku. The restrictions would be introduced by separate government decree in areas where the epidemic can no longer be prevented using the existing measures.

Under the government's proposal, supported by the Social Democrats, the Green Party, the Left Alliance and the Swedish People's Party, in areas subject to mobility restrictions, people will only have the right to leave home for an 'essential' reason, such as visiting a grocery store, work, go to the doctor, visit the bank, buy medicine or for outdoors exercise.

People could move around outdoors for recreational or fitness purposes with others belonging to the same household or at most two other persons. Walking pets would be allowed.

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

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

Fines risk for not wearing masks

Violations of restrictions may be subject to a fine, but authorities admitted that full control is not possible. The government trusts that people will, in principle, abide by the law. 

In line with the proposal, all people born in 2007 or before must wear a face mask while in indoor spaces and in means of transport with persons other than those belonging to the same household. The police could impose a fixed fine of 40 euros for violation of the mask mandate.

The police, for its part, issued a statement to say that its officials are "prepared" to monitor compliance with the measures. However, they expressed doubts about having the necessary human resources.

"Our challenge is to get a sufficient number of police officers to be removed from other tasks on a fast schedule," said Sanna Heikinheimo from the National Police Board. She reminded that Finland has the lowest number of police officers in Europe in relation to the population.

In principle, other authorities, such as the Defense Forces, would not be asked to provide official assistance for the control of movement restrictions.

"The situation is very serious. There is a very serious threat that healthcare will be overwhelmed if we do not introduce new restrictions," Prime Minister Marin told the Finnish public broadcaster (Yle).

Exceptions to movement restrictions

Essential movement would be permitted for the following reasons: 

  • To purchase food and drink, medicines, fuel or other items of similar importance for everyday life.
  • To handle banking matters and to collect and send mail and other items.
  • To access healthcare or social welfare services or official services that cannot be accessed remotely.
  • To perform duties related to a post or employment relationship or to pursue trade or business activities.
  • To participate in 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.
  • 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 to any other person.
  • To perform military service or meet another statutory obligation.
  • 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 fulfil 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.
  • For a private meeting of a spiritual nature with a representative of a religious community.
  • For the maintenance or servicing of a building, property or vehicle owned or controlled by a person, or for the purpose of moving to another place of residence.
  • To care for an animal for which a person is responsible.
  • To travel to a leisure home owned or under long-term possession by a person.
  • To perform rescue services.

Finnish government to impose movement restrictions and mandatory masks