May 7, 2021

Finland partially reopens restaurants and bars, proposed continuation of restrictions “outrageous”

In areas most affected by the epidemic, sources say all establishments will have to stop alcohol sales at 5pm

Finland partially reopens restaurants and bars, proposed continuation of restrictions "outrageous"

Finland partially reopens restaurants and bars, proposed continuation of restrictions “outrageous”

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Following six weeks of epidemic-related closures, restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs will be able to open their doors again in 13 regions, but their operations will continue to be partially restricted, according to Yle sources.

Establishments in regions considered to be in either the accelerating or community transmission phases of the epidemic have been closed since 9 March.

Yle’s sources said bars and restaurants in accelerating phase regions will initially face some restrictions on opening hours and capacity, but these will be gradually downgraded towards the summer, in line with the epidemic situation in the region.

In the worst-affected areas, such as the regions of Uusimaa and Southwest Finland, which are currently in the community transmission phase, bars may be ordered to close at 6pm while restaurants would be allowed to remain open for one hour longer. However, the serving of alcohol would be required to end at 5pm in all establishments.

Other regions that may be subject to these tighter restrictions could include Päijät-Häme, Kanta-Häme and Kymenlaakso, along with any other regions considered to be in the community transmission phase.

An assessment regarding the severity of the epidemic situation in each region would be required from the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) before a final decision will be made. Pirkanmaa, for example, has fluctuated between the acceleration and community transmission phases.

Government advisors were scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss the proposed restrictions, as any measures that significantly impede the operations of a certain industry can only be imposed when absolutely necessary.

Parliament is expected to make a decision on the latest proposals on Thursday.

Sources also informed Yle that the closures of bars and restaurants have been key in reducing Finland’s rate of infections, so the reopening is being handled with caution and the need for remaining restrictions will be reviewed on a week by week basis.

Proposed continuation of restrictions “outrageous”

CEO of the Finnish Hospitality Association (MaRa), Timo Lappi, told Yle that the continuation of the restrictions is “outrageous”.

“These are very strict and surprising regulations, in light of infection rates decreasing,” says Lappi.

Business losses caused by the full closure of bars and restaurants require compensation under the government’s scheme, as the business cannot operate under such restrictions. The hospitality industry is now eagerly awaiting confirmation of the new restrictions, as businesses will need to decide quickly if re-opening makes financial sense with Monday approaching quickly.

A survey of MaRa members found that many businesses in the hospitality industry are on the brink of bankruptcy.

According to the association, ordering bars and restaurants to close at 6pm is effectively a way to keep the closures going without having to financially compensate businesses.

Lappi added that he thinks cafes and lunch restaurants will open on Monday but that technically, in accordance with the law, furloughed restaurant workers should be given seven days’ notice of their return to work.

“I believe arrangements can be made with employees, even if shifts should legally be announced a week prior,” Lappi said, adding that he believes the majority of restaurants may stay closed if they have to stop serving alcohol at 5pm.

“Saturday brunches may work, but not much else,” he said.

A week ago, the Parliamentary Committee on Social Affairs and Health said in its report that there needs to be a very high threshold for forcing a bar or restaurant to close before 9pm. The report had raised hopes within the industry in terms of upcoming restrictions.

“I’m interested to hear why the anticipated restrictions require restaurants to close by 7pm, and why the committee’s position has not been heeded,” Lappi added.

Source: Yle

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