Finnish authorities have announced stricter coronavirus disease (COVID-19) measures to be imposed in the Helsinki region for three weeks from Monday, November 23, as efforts continue to combat an increase in the number of virus infections. Indoor public meetings of more than 20 people will be banned. Adults' team and contact sports will be suspended, with amateur-level matches and competitions canceled during this time. Individual and group sports competitions on the national team, national and Division I levels, and professional athletes training for international competitions, as well as group activities which maintain social distances, will be exempt.
Restaurants will be required to close at 23:00 (local time); alcohol may be served until 22:00. In addition, only 50 percent of seats in bars and restaurants serving mainly alcohol may be occupied. Establishments mainly serving food including restaurants, cafeterias, fast food restaurants, and pizzerias, may permit 75 percent seat occupancy. Restaurants operating in connection with service stations will be excluded. Swimming halls, gyms, and other sports venues, cultural centers, museums, and libraries will remain open with social distancing rules applied and limits on capacities. Organizers of sports and cultural events, as well as private events, remain encouraged to recommend face mask usage. City offices will remain open; staff may limit the available services or the number of people allowed on the premises at the same time. Social distancing regulations and additional hygiene measures should continue to be observed.
On Thursday, November 19, the government extended earlier travel restrictions, which require travelers from most countries to provide a negative COVID-19 test result upon arrival and to either self-quarantine for ten days or get tested a second time. National travel recommendations and restrictions are in effect. These include avoiding nonessential travel to countries other than those for which travel restrictions have been lifted. Domestic travel is permitted. Face masks remain recommended when traveling on public transport and in other situations where maintaining social distancing is not possible. In Helsinki, face masks are recommended for all persons aged 15 or above at public events and spaces such as banks and shops.
As of Friday, November 20, there have been 20,747 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Finland, with 375 associated fatalities. Further international spread of the virus is expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone non-essential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
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