It has taken them months, but the Finnish government and the national health agency (THL) have finally changed their minds about the use of face masks.
After several past public statements questioning the usefulness of these protections, on Thursday 13 August the Finnish authorities issued a general recommendation for their use in confined places and when it is not possible to maintain social distance between people.
The authorities have made this decision amid a sharp increase in the number of new infections. On Thursday, THL reported 41 new cases, the highest daily amount since May.
The recommendation to use the masks "in certain situations to protect other people" was posted by THL on its website. It is primarily directed to users of public transport -where close contact with other people is hard to avoid-, citizens returned from at-risk countries and for those on their way to a coronavirus test or who are awaiting the results.
In the afternoon, Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) and THL's Director General for Health Security, Mika Salminen, participated in a press conference to endorse these recommendations and explain the scope of the new decisions taken to curb the pandemic.
In principle, each person is responsible for buying and paying for their own masks. However, the Prime Minister affirmed that the municipalities will ensure that the poorest or most vulnerable people also have access to protections. The state will reimburse them for the corresponding costs.
Sanna Marin also confirmed the reissue of a recommendation to extend teleworking, both in the public and private sectors, in those regions where the epidemic is accelerating.
This measure, which had been lifted at the beginning of the month, will be in force indefinitely for the areas of Uusimaa (Helsinki and surroundings), Southwest Finland (Turku area) and Länsi-Pohja (the northwestern area bordering Sweden).
According to the government's resolution, employers should also promote work arrangements that reduce close contacts and other risk factors at the workplace.