Coronavirus: Restaurants and theatres to reopen in Finland, as Europe continues to ease lockdown

Similar measures taken in the Netherlands, while Denmark hints at relaxation of travel warnings

Jon Sharman
Monday 01 June 2020 16:32
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A woman buys flowers at the market square in Turku, Finland, 28 May
A woman buys flowers at the market square in Turku, Finland, 28 May

Finland and other European countries relaxed a string of coronavirus lockdown restrictions on Monday, permitting a wider range of leisure and social activities as well as limited travel.

Helsinki said it would allow public gatherings of up to 50 people from 1 June, recommending that people stick to social distancing and hygiene guidance. Such gatherings can include demonstrations, competitions, and entertainment events, the government said in a statement.

Theatres, libraries and swimming pools will reopen, while cafes and restaurants will be allowed to use only half their capacity. Domestic tourism within Finland is to be allowed once more, subject to safety standards. The Finnish government also said it would phase out restrictions on the interest rate.

Finland’s tourism sector has been hit hard by Covid-19. The closure of the border with Russia has put an abrupt stop to visits by the nearly 2 million Russian tourists who contribute to the economy in eastern Finland each year, and many in the region believe the frontier will remain shut well past the summer travel season, given Russia’s sustained infection rate.

The Netherlands made a series of similar changes on Monday, setting a hard limit of 30 for diners inside cafes and restaurants. Waiters will ask all guests, who must have reservations, whether they are ill – if so, they will have to go home. Dutch cinemas and theatres will also have to abide by the 30-patron rule.

From Monday, it was mandatory to wear a face mask on public transport, with a €95 (£85) fine in store for anyone caught without one, the government said.

Ministers have also set out a plan for the reopening of schools: primary schools will come back full-time for all children from 8 June, and secondaries will partially reopen from Tuesday with social distancing measures in place. On Saturday, the government further said it would allow “young people aged 13 to 18 ... to take part in organised sports activities outdoors under the supervision of sports clubs or professionals, without keeping a distance of 1.5 metres”.

Looking ahead, the Dutch hope to further ease restrictions from 1 July, including the reopening of gyms, spas and casinos. However, ministers warned that basic rules on hygiene, distancing and staying home will still apply into August. “The government hopes to be able to provide more information next week about the summer holiday months,” a statement said.

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Danes can resume some travel abroad from 15 June; ministers said the official risk level on visits to Germany, Iceland and Norway would be reduced but that there would be no changes in advice relating to the rest of the world until the end of August. “The government is currently in talks with Sweden and Finland, which may lead to further reopening of the travel advice before 31 August,” a statement added on Saturday.

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