HELSINKI (Reuters) – Finland recommended the use of face masks in public for the first time on Thursday as the number of coronavirus cases rises.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin said masks should be worn in situations where social distancing is not possible, such as on public transport.
People aged 15 or over who will stay for more than 15 minutes in crowded places should wear them, excluding regions where no new cases have been found in two weeks, the public health authority also recommended.
Prior to Thursday, Finland had not officially backed the use of masks.
Health authorities reported 41 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, a daily record since the end of May, bringing the total to 7,683 since the beginning of the pandemic. A total of 333 people have died.
Marin also clarified the new quarantine rules for travellers from high-risk countries, following contradictory statements by ministers over a two-week quarantine earlier this week.
She said the government had no legal grounds to order general quarantines but local health authorities and doctors were able to mandate coronavirus tests and quarantine decisions for travellers arriving from high-risk countries.
Marin said anyone arriving from a country with more than 8 to 10 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the latest two-week period should go on a voluntary 14-day quarantine, while authorities would be mandating sanctioned quarantines on travellers from “red-coloured countries” where infections are peaking.
The government also decided to recommend returning to remote work whenever possible in regions where infections are on the rise, meaning the region around the cpaital Helsinki and two others at the moment, Marin said.
(Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Jon Boyle)