HELSINKI (Reuters) – Finland will begin lifting restrictions put in place to check the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant, with the aim of removing all curbs at the beginning of March, Prime Minister Sanna Marin told reporters on Wednesday.
Heavy restrictions put in place just after Christmas had forced many restaurants and cultural and sports venues to temporarily lay off staff and cancel events.
The government now plans to allow restaurants to remain open until midnight and remove curbs on public gatherings from Feb. 14, Marin said, adding the aim is to remove all restrictions at the start of next month.
Marin said hospitalisation numbers have steadied and are even showing signs of decreasing.
She said restrictions need to remain in place for two more weeks so that the government can monitor how the epidemic develops in neighbouring Norway and Denmark.
“It’s simply because Finland is epidemiologically around two weeks behind other countries,” Marin said.
The government also plans to officially retire the COVID-19 passport it used from mid-October to late December, which allowed public venues to only let in people with vaccinations or a recent negative test result.
Despite high infections around new year, Finland remains among countries least affected by the pandemic. To date, the nation of 5.5 million people has recorded 501,152 cases, 2,012 deaths and has 655 people hospitalised due to COVID-19.
(Reporting by Essi Lehto; Editing by Jan Harvey)