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Finland’s COVID-19 situation worsening rapidly, Norway to keep virus restrictions until mid-December

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Finland’s COVID-19 situation has worsened rapidly in recent days, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Thursday, though she added that the government had decided it did not yet have the grounds to adopt emergency measures as it did in March.

Finland’s 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants stood at 75.8 on Wednesday, Europe’s second lowest level behind Iceland, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data showed, but the Finnish government warned the number of new cases was rising at a worrying pace again.

In the worst hit region around the capital Helsinki, the number of new cases rose by nearly 70% last week from the week before, the region’s Chief Medical Officer Markku Makijarvi said.

On Thursday, the government recommended regional authorities temporarily close all high-risk public spaces in regions where case numbers were rising rapidly.

New cases are on the rise in around half of the country, with two regions out of 21 more severely affected, health authorities said.

The region around Helsinki will ban all public meetings both indoors and outdoors and send pupils and students of more than 15 years old home to remote learning, among other measures, local health authorities said.

Meanwhile, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said Norway must maintain its most recent coronavirus restrictions for now and needs at least another three weeks to assess whether they can be lifted.

European governments are grappling with the spread of the disease while people want to celebrate Christmas and New Year.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel. We must hold on,” Solberg told a news conference, adding that authorities could offer vaccines to vulnerable groups early next year, if European health authorities approve vaccines by the end of this year.

Non-EU Norway will get access to vaccines obtained by the EU, thanks to Sweden, an EU member that will buy more than it needs and sell them to Norway.

Norway’s 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants was 150.9 as of Tuesday, the fourth-lowest in Europe behind Iceland, Finland and Ireland, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Main Photo: The Santa Claus office serves a few customers in Santa Claus village at the Arctic Circle, near Rovaniemi, Finland. EPA-EFE/KAISA SIREN

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