Finland begins to block roads to Helsinki

  • World
  • Saturday, 28 Mar 2020

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Police and the Finnish army set up roadblocks on all routes that connect Helsinki with the rest of the country, while the government rushed legislation through parliament to enforce the capital region's coronavirus blockade by midnight on Friday.

Finland's government decided on Wednesday to issue a three-week blockade of the region around Helsinki, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Finland, to prevent people from travelling and spreading the virus elsewhere in the country. But on Friday the decision was still pending parliament's approval.

Traffic began to jam towards evening on the motorways leading out from the capital region, Uusimaa, as police began blocking lanes with bollards and fences, local media reported.

Meanwhile in Helsinki, legislators at the parliament continued to debate the law - which was delayed due to constitutional technicalities earlier on Friday - in order to approve it before midnight, when it is supposed to take force.

"Everything aims at the matter being approved by midnight, despite this technical faux pas," parliament speaker Matti Vanhanen told Finland's largest daily, Helsingin Sanomat.

Travelling to and from the Uusimaa region will be prohibited until April 19, with certain exceptions such as goods deliveries and indispensable work-related commuting.

By Friday, authorities had counted seven deaths and 1,025 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Finland, most of them in the capital region.

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.

(Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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