Finland proposes home lockdown for Helsinki residents for first time during pandemic

FILE PHOTO: People protest against Finnish government's regulations to fight the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Helsinki, Finland March 20, 2021. Lehtikuva/Antti Aimo-Koivisto via REUTERS/File Photo

HELSINKI (Reuters) - The Finnish government on Wednesday proposed locking down residents of five cities, including the capital Helsinki, and only allowing people to leave their homes for limited reasons, to curb rising coronavirus infections and hospitalisations.

The lockdown, which would be the first time Finland confines people to their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, is subject to a parliamentary vote and assessment by the constitutional law committee.

Earlier this month the government closed restaurants and secondary schools throughout the country.

The Nordic nation of 5.5 million people has recorded 73,516 coronavirus infections and 811 deaths. It has been praised for its handling of the pandemic and has been among the least-affected countries in Europe. It has 295 people in hospital with COVID-19.

“These [five] are now the cities with the most difficult epidemic situations but the list can be updated if the situation changes,” Paivi Anttikoski, communications director at the prime minister’s office told Reuters.

In the draft legislation published on Wednesday evening, the government said the lockdown would mean people would only be allowed to leave their home for a predetermined purpose such as buying food or traveling to a second home.

Disobeying the restrictions would result in a fine.

Reporting by Essi Lehto; Editing by Alexandra Hudson