March 25, 2020 / 9:00 PM / 3 months ago

Finland restricts movement to and from capital region to reduce coronavirus spread

HELSINKI (Reuters) - The Finnish government decided on Wednesday to issue a three-week blockade of the Uusimaa region around Helsinki, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Finland, to prevent people from travelling and spreading the virus elsewhere in the country.

Travelling to and from the Uusimaa region will be prohibited until April 19 and the government seeks to enforce it by Friday, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said.

The health authority had earlier worsened its forecast for the spread of the virus, estimating that between 11,000 and 15,500 people would be hospitalised and that from 3,600 to 5,000 would require intensive care in the following months.

The travel restrictions will be enforced by police and conscripts with certain exceptions such as goods deliveries and indispensable work-related commuting, the government said.

By Wednesday, authorities had counted three deaths and 880 confirmed cases in Finland, most of them in the capital region.

“The risk of the disease spreading significantly is great,” Krista Kiuru, minister of family affairs and social services, said, adding the blockade was essential to ensure Finland’s healthcare capacity could match the peaking demand.

Last week, Finland restricted traffic across its borders, banned public meetings of more than 10 people, closed schools for most pupils and urged people to stay at home as much as possible.

Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Sandra Maler and Grant McCool

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