March 24, 2020 / 8:45 PM / 4 months ago

Finland to close restaurants, mulls capital region blockade

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland’s government on Tuesday rushed forward a law to close all restaurants, cafes and bars until the end of May and mulled a possible blockade of the capital region to contain the coronavirus outbreak, it said.

The Finnish parliament began an immediate late evening hearing to adopt the law which would take effect as soon as possible.

Earlier on Tuesday, the government convened all parliamentary groups to discuss a possible blockade of the capital region around Helsinki, the epicenter of Finland’s 792 confirmed COVID-19 cases and one death.

The government canceled a news conference scheduled for Tuesday evening and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said talks on further restrictions to people’s free movement within the country would continue.

Last week, Finland restricted traffic across its borders, banned public meetings of more than 10 people, closed schools for most pupils and urged people to stay at home as much as possible.

Restaurants will continue to be allowed to sell takeaway meals, the government said.

Meanwhile, neighboring Estonia agreed on Tuesday to demand people keep a two-metre distance from each other in public spaces, with the exception of families, to close shopping malls and limit opening hours of bars and restaurants.

Reporting by Anne Kauranen, Additional reporting by Tarmo Virki, Editing by William Maclean

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