Finland declares a state of emergency
The Government, in cooperation with the President of the Republic, has declared a state of emergency in Finland due to COVID-19. In its plenary session on Monday 1 March, the Government declared that the country is in a state of emergency as referred to in section 3, paragraph 5 of the Emergency Powers Act. The state of emergency will enter into force immediately.
Section 3, paragraph 5 of the Emergency Powers Act states that a widespread outbreak of a serious infectious disease, the effect of which is comparable to a major disaster, meets the definition of a state of emergency.
The number and incidence of COVID-19 cases in Finland have risen very rapidly since the beginning of February 2021. The number of infections caused by new virus variants has clearly increased, which may further accelerate the epidemic and place significant strain on hospital and intensive care capacity if we are unable to bring the number of infections down.
At this stage, there is no immediate need to adopt the powers laid down in Part II of the Emergency Powers Act, which restrict the fundamental rights of citizens, but the need to introduce them will depend on how the epidemic progresses in the near future. However, the Government estimates that it will be necessary to apply the provisions of sections 106 (communication by the state administrative authorities in emergencies) and 107 (powers in emergencies) of Chapter 15 of the Act once the state of emergency enters into force.
The government decision declaring the state of emergency will enter into force immediately and will remain in force until it is repealed.
Government proposal on restaurant closures submitted to Parliament
Immediately after declaring the state of emergency, the Government submitted to Parliament a proposal for an Act on the Temporary Amendment of the Act on Accommodation and Catering Operations under section 23 of the Constitution of Finland. The proposal would temporarily close restaurants and other food and beverage service businesses to customers for three weeks. The act would enter into force on 8 March 2021 and remain in force until 28 March 2021.
During that time, meals could still be sold to customers for takeaway and delivery. The closure would apply to food and beverage service businesses in areas where the COVID-19 epidemic is in the acceleration or community transmission phase. Staff restaurants and other restaurants not open to the public would be exempt from the closure. Separate provisions on the areas of application will be laid down by government decree.
Inquiries: Timo Lankinen, Permanent State Under-Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office, tel. +358 295 160 300 (state of emergency) and Liisa Huhtala, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 29 504 7062 and Antti Neimala, Director General, tel. +358 29 504 7039, Ministry of Employment and the Economy (food and beverage service businesses)