PRIME MINISTER Sanna Marin (SDP) has reminded that heavy-handed measures would be required for a long period of time to eradicate the new coronavirus from Finland.
The Finnish government’s position on the possibility of smothering the epidemic has stirred up widespread debate following the release of an exit strategy report by a task force led by Martti Hetemäki, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Finance.
The report raised eyebrows among experts especially by concluding that eliminating the epidemic permanently is not a realistic option for Finland.
The Christian Democrats on Wednesday demanded that the government give up on its pursuit of “a new normal” and take action to eradicate the coronavirus in order to return to “the right normal”. The Finns Party, similarly, expressed its bafflement with the government’s reluctance to follow the example set by many countries and attempt to weed out the virus completely.
New Zealand, for example, has gained global media attention in recent days for bringing the number of new coronavirus cases to zero.
“But what would be the benefits?” retorted Marin. “Finnish citizens always have the right to leave and return to Finland. The disease could come back to our country that way. Cargo and freight transport is similarly continuing, meaning the disease could come back that way too.”
“I doubt that even we in the [session] hall want to shut down the society for a very long time – possibly for years – to prevent the disease from coming here in all circumstances. I don’t think it’s the rational choice and that’s why we’ve taken the golden middle way: we’re opening in a gradual and controlled way while carefully monitoring and adjusting our approach if necessary.”
Marin estimated that herd immunity is unlikely to be achieved until an effective vaccine against the new coronavirus has been developed.
“We’re all naturally hoping that a vaccine becomes available as soon as possible and, when it comes to herd immunity, that’s how the immunity will probably be achieved – through an effective vaccine that’s taken by a large enough share of the population,” she said.
She also underlined that the much-discussed report should not be misconstrued as an exact representation of the government’s position.
“The report was of course the basis of the government’s decision in-principle, but it was drafted by officials and the government didn’t change any parts or words in the report,” she said. “It was drafted by officials, it has been received and the government has made its own decisions based on it.”
The Finnish government, she added, continues to work toward the objective of preventing the spread of the new coronavirus, safeguarding the health care capacity and protecting people who are especially vulnerable to the virus.