Fri, 14 May 2021

HELSINKI, April 16 (Xinhua) -- The Finnish government decided on Friday that restaurants throughout the country will open next week after most have been closed for six weeks. Besides, the country is set to emphasize COVID-19 vaccinations for the worst affected areas temporarily.

Restaurants may open their doors across the country on Monday, said the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Finland closed public dining places in most parts of the country for three weeks in early March, in response to the worsening COVID-19 situation, and then extended the ban to another three weeks.

The reopening of restaurants will be subject to certain restrictions, including opening hours, the movement of customers in the restaurant, and the number of seats. Restrictions will vary from province to province depending on the local epidemic situation.

Medical experts have said that the decision to close most of the restaurants was a key factor in turning the tide of infections in Finland. But the Finnish Hospitality Association worried that the cut-down of hours and capacity will further impact the industry.

Also on Friday, in a policy change on vaccinations, the government allowed a concentration of vaccines to high infection areas. The change is valid until the end of May.

According to a government decree, vaccines from Moderna and AstraZeneca will be used. However, the initial vaccination of people over 70 and risk groups must have been completed first.

According to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), some 23 percent of the country's population had been vaccinated with the first COVID-19 vaccine dose by Friday, and two percent had completed the vaccination.

Finland recorded 380 news cases on Friday, while the death toll increased by two to 887, according to the THL. During the last two weeks, the number of new infections is 3,167 less than the previous 2-week cycle.

Eeva Ruotsalainen, Deputy Chief Physician of Helsinki-Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS), which covers 24 municipalities in southern Finland, including the capital area, told national radio Yle that there is "no time of sighs of relief yet."

"There are still some 1,500 new infections per week in the HUS area when the aim should be around 50 per week as it was last June," she said.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in an increasing number of countries with already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, 272 candidate vaccines are still being developed globally -- 88 of them in clinical trials -- in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain, and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on April 16.

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