March 16, 2020 / 5:10 PM / 21 days ago

UPDATE 1-Finland to shut schools, universities due to coronavirus

(Adds details, comments)

HELSINKI, March 16 (Reuters) - Finland’s government will pass emergency legislation on Tuesday to close all schools and universities from Wednesday among other measures in response to the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Monday.

Marin told reporters that schools and daycare centres would remain open for children aged 6-9 whose parents have jobs critical to the functioning of society, such as healthcare, food shops and the police.

There were 272 confirmed cases of coronavirus and no deaths in Finland as of Monday though the actual number of cases could be far higher as testing is currently limited to healthcare personnel and most vulnerable groups, such as the elderly.

“The real number of those who have fallen ill could be 20 to 30 times higher than what has been proven with tests,” Markku Tervahauta, head of Finland’s Institute for Health and Welfare, said on national radio on Monday, referring to computer simulations.

Marin said the government now intended to expand testing.

“Public gatherings will be limited to 10 persons and we will recommend that unnecessary sojourns in public places be avoided,” the government said in a statement.

Finance Minister Katri Kulmuni listed several measures worth five billion euros intended both to provide sufficient funding for municipalities and public healthcare and alleviate the blow to businesses.

Other measures include a ban onvisits to elderly care homes as well as a recommendation for all those above 70 years old to remain in voluntary quarantine at home as much as possible.

While restaurants and shops in Finland remained open, the government said all public museums, libraries, theatres and sports facilities would be closed. (Reporting by Anne Kauranen Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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