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Finland: Legal Response to Covid-19

Finland [fi]

Toomas Kotkas, Elisa Husu, Hanna Wass, Anu Kantola

From: Oxford Constitutions (http://oxcon.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved.date: 30 June 2022

General editors: Prof. Jeff King; Prof. Octavio Ferraz
Area editors: Prof. Tendayi Achiume; Prof. Alan Bogg; Dr. Natalie Byrom; Prof. Cathryn Costello; Prof. Nicola Countouris; Prof. Colleen Flood; Prof. Eva Pils; Prof. Nico Steytler; Dr. Silvia Suteu; Dr. Bryan Thomas; Dr. Michael Veale; Dr. Pedro A. Villarreal


© The several contributors 2021. Some rights reserved. This is an open access publication, available online and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0), a copy of which is available at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/. Enquiries concerning use outside the scope of the licence terms should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press.

Preferred Citation: T Kotkas, A Kantola, H Wass, E Husu, ‘Finland: Legal Response to Covid-19’, in Jeff King and Octávio LM Ferraz et al (eds), The Oxford Compendium of National Legal Responses to Covid-19 (OUP 2021). doi: 10.1093/law-occ19/e32.013.32

Except where the text indicates the contrary, the law is as it stood on: 3 September 2021

With a population of a little over 5.5 million inhabitants, Finland has coped with the Covid-19 pandemic with relatively few fatalities. By 30 August 2021, 123,635 infections and 1,018 Covid-19-related deaths had been reported.

In terms of infections, the pandemic in Finland has occurred in four waves. The first started in mid-March 2020 and it was over by the end of June 2020. During that period, 7,269 infections were reported. The second wave started gradually in August, reaching its peak in the first half of December 2020. By then, a total of some 30,000 infections had been reported. There was a sudden decline in the number of cases until they began to increase again during the second week of January 2021. The third wave reached its peak in late-March 2021. By then, the cumulative number of infections was around 73,000. The third wave had blown over by late-June 2021 when the number of infections began to rapidly rise again—this time due to the Delta variant. The peak of the fourth wave was in mid-August 2021.

The number of daily deaths followed the number of infections during the first and second wave. However, when the third wave of infections began, the number of daily deaths kept decreasing. This is, of course, due to the vaccinations that started in Finland at the end of December 2020.

The responsibility to organize adequate health and medical services is vested in the municipalities—currently 309 of them. However, specialized medical treatment in hospitals, including regular hospital care and intensive care of Covid-19 patients, is provided by hospital districts—currently 21 of them—to which each municipality must belong. Covid-19 patients have also been treated in basic health care units of municipalities. The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital care has followed the number of infections. The daily number of Covid-19 patients in hospital care was at its highest (circa 300) at the end of April 2021.

I.  Constitutional Framework

1.  Finland is a democratic republic where legislative powers are exercised by a unicameral Parliament (Eduskunta). The new Constitution of Finland (731/1999) entered into force in 2000.1 Chapter 2 of the Constitution consists of a comprehensive list of basic rights, which include also economic, social, and cultural rights as well as the more traditional civil and political ones. The constitutional review of law is performed ex ante by the Constitutional Law Committee of the Parliament (perustuslakivaliokunta), whose task is to review Government bills.

2.  Executive powers are divided between the Government (hallitus) and the President. The Government must enjoy the confidence of the Parliament, which is elected every four years. The Prime Minister is elected by the Parliament and thereafter formally appointed to office by the President. Other ministers are also formally appointed by the President in accordance with the Prime Minister’s proposal. The Prime Minister acts as the Head of the Government. Proposals for the enactment of acts (bills) in Parliament are initiated by the Government. The President is popularly elected every six years. The President formally confirms acts enacted by the Parliament. Upon the request of the Prime Minister, the President shall grant the resignation of the Government. The President can also do this without a request if the Government no longer enjoys the confidence of the Parliament. The President’s actual powers mostly concern foreign policy, which the President leads in co-operation with the Government. Since the new Constitution entered into force in 2000, Finland has been a parliamentary system where the President’s role is mainly ceremonial. The judicial powers are exercised by independent courts. Administration of justice is divided between general courts and administrative courts and there are two supreme courts—one for each judicial branch.

3.  Finland is a unitary republic. However, the status of the Åland Islands as an autonomous province is confirmed in Section 120 of the Constitution. This means that the Legislative Assembly of the Åland Islands (Ålands lagting) holds legislative powers in many sectors such as social welfare and health care, with some exceptions such as the regulation of communicable diseases. Furthermore, Section 121 of the Constitution also vests a great deal of autonomy to municipalities—currently 309 of them. Municipal councils (kunnanvaltuusto) hold the highest decision-making powers in municipalities, and they are elected every four years. The Local Government Act includes provisions on the general principles governing municipal administration and the duties of the municipalities.2 The municipalities have the right to levy municipal taxes and have powers—within the limits of national legislation—over several policies such as early childhood education, schooling, cultural services, social welfare and health care services, environmental services, land use and urban planning, water supply and sewerage, etc.

4.  According to Section 19(3) of the Constitution of Finland, ‘[t]he public authorities shall guarantee for everyone, as provided in more detail by an Act, adequate social, health and medical services and promote the health of the population.’ Consequently, the responsibility to organize adequate health and medical services, which are prescribed in legislation, is vested in the municipalities. From 2023, a new administrative model of social welfare and health services will be in place.3 With regard to primary health care, municipalities may organize services by themselves, but when it comes to specialized medical treatment in hospitals, each municipality must belong to a federation of municipalities based on hospital districts. Currently, there are 21 hospital districts in Finland. The municipalities and federations of municipalities can provide health services by themselves, together with other municipalities, by outsourcing them to private service providers, or by issuing service vouchers to patients. Municipal health care services are financed through State subsidies, municipal tax revenues, and patient charges. As a rule, the municipalities and federations of municipalities can allocate resources independently from the central Government. According to the Emergency Powers Act, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health as well as the regional State administrative agencies may only give orders to individual health care units in a state of emergency to change, expand, relocate, or hand over their activities.4

5.  There are two separate procedures for declaring a state of emergency. First, it is prescribed in Section 23 of the Constitution that in a state of emergency the Parliament can enact provisional exceptions to the constitutional basic rights. Second, according to the Emergency Powers Act, the Government, together with the President, can declare a state of emergency in order to put into operation the provisions of the Act. In both cases, the Parliament has the final authority to decide on the actual legislative measures (see Part II.A below).

6.  The response to the pandemic has not changed the basic constitutional structure of the State. However, due to the fact that both Section 23 of the Constitution as well as the Emergency Powers Act were put into operation for the first time because of the pandemic, some unclarity arose concerning the relationship between the two procedures for declaring a state of emergency. It was not clear whether enacting provisional exceptions to the basic rights by virtue of Section 23 of the Constitution required that the Government and the President had first declared a state of emergency. The Constitutional Law Committee of the Parliament stated that this was not necessary. The Parliament can independently enact provisional exceptions to the basic rights by virtue of Section 23 of the Constitution.5

II.  Applicable Legal Framework

A.  Constitutional and international law

7.  According to Section 23 of the Constitution, in a state of emergency, provisional exceptions to basic rights can be made, either through Acts of Parliament or Government decrees (valtioneuvoston asetus). However, the Government’s authority to give decrees must be based on legislation, and the scope of application of the decrees must be restricted. Furthermore, the decrees must be submitted to the Parliament, which ultimately decides on their validity.

8.  In a state of emergency, exceptions to the basic rights provisions—as well as other provisions of the Constitution—can also be made under the Emergency Powers Act. The Emergency Powers Act has been enacted according to the procedure for constitutional enactment because it enables exceptions to the Constitution. Section 73 of the Constitution prescribes that any legislative proposal which entails a limited derogation of the Constitution must be enacted following the procedure of constitutional enactment, ie, hold the proposal in abeyance or declare it urgent by a majority of at least five-sixths. Acts that have been enacted according to the procedure of constitutional enactment—like the Emergency Powers Act—have no constitutional status, however. The Emergency Powers Act includes several provisions on various exceptional powers and measures that can be put into operation during a state of emergency. In order to put into operation the provisions of the Act, the Government, together with the President, must first declare a state of emergency, after which the Government must further issue a separate Decree on the Putting into Operation of the Emergency Powers Act (käyttöönottoasetus). This decree can be valid for a maximum of six months at a time, and it must also specify which provisions of the act will be put into operation and in which regions of the country. Finally, the decree must be submitted to the Parliament which can then decide whether it can stay in force as such or be wholly or partly repealed.

9.  According to both Section 23 of the Constitution and the Emergency Powers Act, a pandemic is legitimate grounds for declaring a state of emergency.

10.  So far, a state of emergency has been declared in Finland twice during the Covid-19 pandemic. The first declaration was issued by the President and the Government on 16 March 2020 pursuant to the Emergency Powers Act.6 Three months later, on 15 June 2020, the Government made the decision to end the first state of emergency.7 The second state of emergency was declared on 1 March 2021, again pursuant to the Emergency Powers Act.8 This time, the state of emergency lasted only about two months since the Government ended it on 27 April 2021.9

11.  During the two states of emergency, the Government issued several decrees by virtue of the provisions of the Emergency Powers Act (Sections 88, 93–94, 109, and 118). These decrees entailed some restrictions on the right to education, the right to adequate health services, the right to occupational safety, and freedom of movement, all of which are enshrined in the Constitution (see Part IV below). Furthermore, by way of Section 23 of the Constitution, the Parliament temporarily amended the Act on Accommodation and Food Service Activities,10 closing down restaurants and pubs and thus curtailing the right to work and freedom of occupation which are also enshrined in the Constitution (see Part IV.A below). Basic rights have also been temporarily restricted by ordinary legislation.

12.  According to Section 23 of the Constitution, the provisional exceptions made to basic rights during a state of emergency must be in accordance with Finland's international human rights obligations. Consequently, no derogation from the right to life, prohibition of torture, prohibition of slavery and forced labour, and the principle of no punishment without law are allowed as stipulated in Article 15(2) of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR). Moreover, as stated in the United Nations Human Rights Committee General Comment No 29, ‘States parties may in no circumstances invoke Article 4 of the Covenant as justification for acting in violation of humanitarian law or peremptory norms of international law, for instance by taking hostages, by imposing collective punishments, through arbitrary deprivations of liberty or by deviating from fundamental principles of fair trial, including the presumption of innocence.’11

13.  None of the international conventions to which Finland is a party, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and ECHR, have been regarded as setting restrictions to the State’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and no legal derogations from these conventions have been made.

14.  The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos) (THL or ‘Institute’), an independent expert agency working under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, has referred to the World Health Organization’s recommendations, for instance, when updating its own recommendations on the use of face masks.12

B.  Statutory provisions

15.  Finnish legislation does not recognize a separate public health emergency; only a constitutional state of emergency can be declared, as explained in Part II.A above. The main law aimed at tackling contagious diseases without the need to declare a state of emergency is the Communicable Diseases Act.13 Section 4 of the Act classifies communicable diseases into three categories: generally hazardous, monitored, and other communicable diseases. These are all further specified in the Government Decree on Communicable Diseases.14 On 13 February 2020, Section 1 of the Decree was amended to add Covid-19 to the list of generally hazardous communicable diseases.15

16.  Although many interventions and restrictions could be made on the grounds of the Communicable Diseases Act, it became clear from the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic that the act had serious gaps in it, which is why emergency powers legislation had to be resorted to. However, it became equally clear that the Emergency Powers Act did not provide adequate powers either for the Government and other authorities to respond to the pandemic. Therefore, the Communicable Diseases Act has been temporarily amended several times during the pandemic so that there would not be a need to declare new states of emergency. The Act mandates, for instance, regional State administrative agencies (aluehallintovirasto) (AVI) and municipal authorities to close schools as well as social care and healthcare units and to ban public events (Section 58). Temporary amendments mandate the Government, for instance, to restrict the opening hours of restaurants and pubs (Section 58(a)).

17.  During the Covid-19 pandemic, no new general law providing for emergency powers to respond to the pandemic has been introduced. Only amendments to the already existing legislation have been made and targeted new legislation—for instance on re-employment subsidies and compensation for losses of restaurants (see Part IV.A.4 below)—has been passed. There has not been any major political controversy regarding the introduction of new Covid-19-related legislation at the time of the enactment. However, the necessity and the length of public health measures—enabled by the legislation—have been questioned as the pandemic has dragged on. For instance, in August 2021, the Finnish Hospitality Association (MaRa) that represents hotels, restaurants, tourism, etc, lodged several appeals in administrative courts against the regional State administrative agencies’ decisions on new limitations on public gatherings and social distancing. The Association argued that the limitations were no longer necessary because vaccination of the population was making rapid progress and the need for hospital care had stayed moderate.16

C.  Executive rule-making powers

18.  Executive rule-making powers have played an important role in establishing the rules for dealing with the pandemic. Executive rule-making powers are divided into three levels: the national (mainly the Government), the regional (mainly regional State administrative agencies), and the municipal (municipal boards and municipal physicians responsible for communicable diseases). In case of a widespread communicable disease such as Covid-19, higher executive authorities can give guidelines to lower authorities. They also have the powers to make decisions that supersede the decisions of lower authorities (see eg Part I above and Part IV.A below).

19.  With regards to the national level, the Emergency Powers Act gives the Government powers to issue decrees through which restrictions can be imposed on people and on the society at large in a state of emergency, as explained in Part II.A above. The maximum period of validity of these decrees is dependent on the period of validity of the Decree on the Putting into Operation of the Emergency Powers Act, which is a maximum of six months at a time (see Part II.A above). The Government has issued such decrees, for instance, on temporary restrictions on freedom of movement.17 The Government has also issued decrees based on ‘normal’ legislation such as the Communicable Diseases Act. For instance, the Government Decree on Voluntary Covid-19 Vaccinations is based on Section 54 of the Communicable Diseases Act.18 The legislation does not set a maximum duration for regular decrees.

20.  Additionally, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency (Liikenne- ja viestintävirasto) (TRAFICOM) may decide on nationwide restrictions on the number of passengers in public transport by virtue of Section 58(f) of the Communicable Diseases Act. This particular section of the Act was a temporary amendment with a duration of a little over four months.

21.  At the regional level, the six regional State administrative agencies are in charge of coordinating and monitoring the control of communicable diseases in their respective areas by virtue of the Communicable Diseases Act (Section 8). For instance, according to Section 16 of the Act, the agencies can issue orders on mandatory health examinations to prevent the spread of hazardous communicable diseases. The agencies have issued such orders to impose mandatory health examinations in land border checkpoints, harbours, and airports.19 In the Åland Islands, the regional executive rule-making powers with regards to communicable diseases lie with the Regional Government of Åland (Ålands landskapsregering).

22.  Finally, at the municipal level, a municipal organ responsible for the prevention of communicable diseases—normally a municipal health board—may also decide, for instance, on the closing of social welfare and healthcare units, schools and nurseries, shopping centres, sports venues, etc (Sections 58 and 58(g) of the Communicable Diseases Act). The regional State administrative agencies can also decide on similar restrictions on their respective territories, which would then override the municipal decisions.

23.  Regarding the municipal level, municipal physicians responsible for communicable diseases also have the authority to decide on certain measures. These physicians may order a person into quarantine for a maximum of one month at a time (Sections 60 and 62 of the Communicable Diseases Act).

24.  All administrative decisions and orders made by virtue of the Communicable Diseases Act are appealable, and appeals may be lodged in an administrative court (Section 90 of the Communicable Diseases Act). Some decisions made by virtue of the Act have, indeed, been appealed against (see eg Part IV.A below).

D.  Guidance

25.  Although the regional State administrative agencies as well as municipalities have the authority to decide on many restrictions in their respective jurisdictions, in practice their decisions have been considerably influenced by the guidelines given by the Government and/or the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. For instance, the Government has given recommendations concerning the maximum number of people in public assemblies. The strictness of the recommendations is based on the state of the pandemic in a particular region, ie, whether the pandemic is, at a basic level, accelerating or spreading.20

26.  As mentioned in Part II.A above, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), an independent expert agency working under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, has also published recommendations, among others, on the use of face masks.21

27.  In general, the regional State administrative agencies and municipalities have followed these recommendations rather dutifully. There have only been a few occasions on which municipalities have acted against the Government’s recommendations. For instance, on 27 January 2021, the Metropolitan Area Covid-19 Coordination Group decided that leisure activities and youth services for minors were to resume on a limited basis, although this was not in line with the Government’s recommendation.22

28.  There have been no divergences between official recommendations and the law.

III.  Institutions and Oversight

A.  The role of the legislatures in supervising the executive

29.  With regards to the Parliament’s oversight of the decree-making powers of the Government, there are two situations that must be discerned, especially in the context of the pandemic. First, as explained in Part II.A above, the putting into operation of any of the exceptional powers of the Emergency Powers Act requires that the Government issue a separate Decree on the Putting into Operation of the Act after the Government and the President have first declared a state of emergency. This decree must be submitted to the Parliament, which then may decide whether it can stay in force as such or be wholly or partly repealed. If the Decree is not submitted to the Parliament within one week of its issuing, it expires. Similarly, provisional exceptions to the basic rights that are made through Government decrees by virtue of Section 23 of the Constitution during a state of emergency (see Part II.A above) must be submitted to the Parliament, which ultimately decides on their validity. In both situations, the Parliament discusses the decree in a single reading—instead of the normal two—in a plenary session and a simple majority vote is sufficient for the passing of the decree.

30.  Second, in ‘normal times’, it is prescribed in the Constitution (Section 80) that the Government, the President, and individual ministries may issue decrees if so mandated in the Constitution or in Acts of Parliament. Decrees may not be issued on the principles concerning the rights and obligations of private individuals. Because the power to issue decrees is based on the provisions of the Constitution or Acts of Parliament, the executive cannot extend its own powers without further action on the part of the legislature. The legislature may, thus, also abolish or restrict the ordinary decree-issuing powers of the Government by legislative amendments.

31.  There is no submission procedure concerning ‘normal’ decrees, but the Government is politically accountable to the Parliament. According to Section 43 of the Constitution, a minimum of 20 members of the Parliament may address an interpellation to the Government or to an individual minister. The interpellation must be replied to within 15 days in a plenary session of the Parliament. Finally, a vote of confidence shall be taken by the Parliament if a motion calling for a vote of no confidence is put forward during the debate. The vote of confidence is settled by a simple majority of votes in the Parliament.

32.  Furthermore, the Chancellor of Justice—as one of the two supreme oversight authorities in Finland (see Part III.G below)—supervises the lawfulness of the decisions and actions of the Government and the President on a general level (Section 112 of the Constitution). An individual Minister may be held accountable for unlawful conduct in office (Section 114 of the Constitution). The Chancellor of Justice is formally appointed by the President at the proposal of the Ministry of Justice.

33.  During the Covid-19 pandemic, four interpellations have so far been addressed to the Parliament.23 None of them has concerned the Covid-19 measures taken by the Government. On 24 March 2020, the Finns Party (in opposition) decided to withdraw its interpellation on the migration policy of the Government because of the Covid-19 situation.24

B.  The functioning of the legislature where its ordinary business is disrupted

34.  The Parliament has been able to convene during the Covid-19 pandemic, and no additional recesses or prorogations have taken place. However, the Speaker’s Council of the Parliament outlined on 24 March 2020 that only necessary and urgent matters are to be discussed in Parliament.25 The secretaries of different committees of the Parliament, together with relevant ministries, were to settle which matters were to be considered necessary and urgent. For instance, parliamentary proceedings concerning non-urgent Government bills, reports, private bills, and popular initiatives were postponed. This practice was renounced on 9 September 2020.26 The following spring, at the height of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in Finland, the decision to discuss only necessary and urgent matters was renewed twice—for March27 and April28 2021.

35.  Furthermore, in March 2020, parliamentary groups decided to restrict the number of Members of Parliament (MPs) in plenary sessions. A maximum of 54 MPs (out of 200) were allowed to take part in the plenary sessions; the places were distributed according to the proportion of the seats of each party. It was also decided that incidental majorities, eg due to quarantine of MPs, would not be allowed in parliamentary voting so as not to slow down the normal legislative proceedings.29 From 9 September 2020 onwards, the maximum number of MPs in plenary sessions was raised to 74. The necessity of this restriction was to be reviewed at the end of September 2021.30

36.  Regarding parliamentary work otherwise, the Speaker’s Council of the Parliament outlined on 24 March 2020 that MPs could work from home and follow matters digitally. Digital voting was, however, not yet then allowed.31

37.  In order to be prepared for the possible worsening of the Covid-19 situation, temporary amendments were made to the Standing Orders of Parliament (Eduskunnan työjärjestys)32 by a decision of the Parliament in October 2020.33 The amendments entered into force on 1 November 2020 and expired on 30 September 2021. According to the amended Section 80(a) of the Standing Orders, the Parliament may, with a majority of two-thirds, decide that Sections 80(b) and 80(c) apply if absolutely necessary. The decision may be valid for a maximum of three months at a time. It was prescribed in Section 80(b) that parliamentary committees may hold remote official meetings using digital devices and connections. Digital voting was allowed. Section 80[c] provided, in turn, that remote voting was also allowed in plenary sessions of the Parliament. By virtue of Section 80(b), the Parliament made a decision on 14 April 2021 that parliamentary committees may hold remote meetings until 31 May 2021.34 The Covid-19 situation improved shortly after the decision and therefore no need for remote meetings occurred. All in all, parliamentary committees have been able to conduct their business without any significant interruption.

38.  Because of the urgency of new Covid-19 legislation, the circulation period for receiving comments was shortened with regards to some Government bills. For instance, the Bill on Permanent and Temporary Amendments to the Communicable Diseases Act was in circulation for comments only for two weeks instead of the ordinary minimum of six weeks.35

39.  There have not been any significant complaints in the press or by opposition parties that there have been disproportionate political constraints imposed on parliamentary scrutiny during the pandemic.

C.  Role of and access to courts

40.  The Emergency Powers Act does not include provisions on courts or court procedure in a state of emergency.36 This is a deliberate policy that has been considered important for preserving the independence of the judiciary.37 Just as during normal times, in a state of emergency, the courts and judges themselves have the authority to decide on session days and hearing dates, as well as on their suspension.

41.  Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, on 18 March 2020, the National Courts Administration of Finland (Tuomioistuinvirasto) issued guidelines in which it recommended that courts should suspend oral hearings if they cannot be held online. Only urgent cases, such as cases concerning coercive measures or criminal cases where the defendant had been detained, should always be heard even though they cannot be held online.38

42.  Consequently, numerous hearings were suspended, especially in 2020. For instance, on 31 May 2020, because of the pandemic, a total of 6,077 criminal cases and 1,405 civil cases were in suspension in district courts, and 310 cases were suspended in administrative courts. A year later, by 23 May 2021, the corresponding numbers had gone down considerably to 1,226 criminal cases, 226 civil cases, and 81 administrative cases.39 The impact of the pandemic on cases in administrative courts was not so significant because in most case groups the proceedings are written; oral proceedings take place mainly in forced child custody cases and immigration cases.

43.  With regards to online proceedings, already in 2019, ie before the pandemic, the possibility of participating in oral hearings online had been broadened. Prior to the reform, it was mainly witnesses that could be heard using technical video and audio communication devices. From 2019 onwards, the defendant and the injured party in criminal cases (Chapter 8, Section 13 of the Criminal Procedure Ac)40 as well as both parties in civil cases (Chapter 12, Section 8 of the Code of Judicial Procedure),41 may participate in oral hearings online if they agree to it and if the court sees it fit.

44.  The National Courts Administration created guidelines on online hearings.42 The guidelines included instructions, for instance, on the use of different communication platforms and applications as well as on their respective data security. There are no statistics available on the number of online hearings, but according to an estimation received from the National Courts Administration of Finland their usage has increased ‘considerably’ during the pandemic, especially in criminal cases and cases concerning coercive measures.43

45.  With regards to online hearings, there has not been any public debate on the possible digital divide between those citizens skilled in online usage and those who are not.

46.  Courts do not have review powers over declarations of states of emergency in Finland.

D.  Elections

47.  Finland is among the countries that rely on the traditional ‘booth, ballot, and pen’ model of voting, based on a specific location and physical presence. This method of voting presented difficulties during the pandemic. In early March 2021, the committee of party secretaries recommended to postpone for two months the municipal elections that were originally scheduled to be held on 18 April 2021, and to extend the period for advance voting from seven to 14 days.44 The Government made a proposition to Parliament accordingly; this was approved in late March.45 The decision was supported by all parliamentary parties except the Finns Party (a right-wing populist party), which also proposed a no-confidence vote against the Minister of Justice.46 The Finns Party considered that the postponing of the elections would endanger democracy and could open limitless possibilities for political abuse in the future.47 According to many contemporary opinion polls, the Finns Party was the most popular party in March 2021.48 The result of the vote of no-confidence was eventually in favour of the Minister of Justice, and she continued as minister.49

48.  While the Ministry of Justice justified the need to postpone the elections mostly by the sudden and dramatic daily increase in new infections, the inability to guarantee the opportunity to vote for those in quarantine was identified as one of the key problems with the voting process.50 Finland introduced postal voting only in 2018, restricting it to voters living abroad.51 In March 2021, the Ministry of Justice, which is the national electoral authority, argued against expanding postal voting to include domestic voters for the pandemic toolkit of Finnish elections. It stated in its memorandum that postal voting could not anyway be applied to persons who had been ordered into isolation because it requires two witnesses. The absence of witnesses would, in turn, pose a threat to electoral freedom.52 Unlike the Ministry of Justice, the Constitutional Law Committee of the Parliament urged in its report on postponing the elections the Government to explore options for expanding postal voting to situations like the pandemic in the future.53

49.  In order to ensure health-safe voting, the Ministry of Justice provided several solutions, such as outdoor, drive-in, and at-home voting, available also for those in quarantine under certain conditions.54 The Ministry prepared detailed instructions for local electoral authorities in collaboration with the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.55 Such investments in protective measures were also welcomed by voters. The online survey titled ‘Citizen Pulse’, organized by the Government and conducted by Statistics Finland twice a month, shows that citizens’ high level of trust in the safety of voting only increased during the spring of 2021. Even more noteworthy, the initial opposition towards postponing the elections turned into support soon after the actual decision was made.56 While advance voting (taking place from 26 May to 8 June 2021) was at a record high, the actual Election Day (13 June 2021) attracted a much more modest share of voters. As a result, the overall turnout (55.1%) was the lowest since 1945.57 The decline was, however, largely interpreted to be caused by the timing of the voting day, ie summertime, and not the pandemic situation, which was much improved since the spring. During the summer months, the Finns tend to spend the weekends in their summer cottages.58

E.  Scientific advice

50.  The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare is the key scientific advisor in respect of communicable diseases.59 The Institute is an independent expert agency working under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The Institute both gives scientific expert advice to authorities and has certain authoritative duties itself, such as, for instance, the duty to keep the National Communicable Diseases Register and to organize the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines to municipalities.

51.  According to the Communicable Diseases Act (Section 7(2)), the Institute ‘supports the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the regional State administrative agencies, maintains national epidemiological surveillance systems serving the control of communicable diseases, and supervises and supports the control of communicable diseases in municipalities, joint municipal authorities for hospital districts, and social welfare and health care units.’

52.  During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Institute was also given the duty to maintain the national mobile application called Koronavilkku to track people exposed to the virus (amended Chapter 4(a) of the Communicable Diseases Act).60

53.  The Institute has no powers (de jure) to decide on legal responses to Covid-19, but, in practice, the authorities have by and large followed its recommendations. On a few occasions, the Institute has recommended stricter measures than the Government has been willing to adopt.61

54.  According to the Communicable Diseases Act (Section 7(2)), the Institute also has a duty to disseminate information on communicable diseases and to provide the population with recommendations for preventing infections and the spread of diseases. The Institute also has a duty to keep a register of national infectious diseases (Section 32 of the Act).62

F.  Freedom of the press and freedom of information

55.  In Finland, the Covid-19 pandemic did not appear to raise major threats to the freedom of the press. Overall, press freedom in Finland is not a salient problem and the country was ranked second in the World Press Freedom Index in 2021.63 In some respects, the pandemic even had a positive impact on the media as the public’s trust in the main media was increased.64 While hate speech and trolling have hampered public life in Finland,65 in connection with the pandemic there were no major outbreaks that would have threatened freedom of the press.

56.  However, the pandemic did cause some financial strain to the press as some media outlets were laying off staff members and industry freelancers were having difficulty finding work. To alleviate the strain and to advance journalism, the Government distributed a EUR 7.5 million support package to 236 media outlets owned by 97 media companies in 2020.66 The aid was granted to media companies, mostly to newspapers and magazines,67 that had lost advertising revenues during the pandemic.68 A similar kind of support is planned for the year 2021 to support independent news and current affairs.69

57.  Throughout the pandemic, there were also concerns as to access to information. These concerns were raised especially in relation to the authorities’ communication strategies. At different points of the pandemic, the Government, especially the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, as well as the Institute for Health and Welfare, were all criticized for their inadequate dissemination of information, which also hampered the work of the press in trying to cover the policy-making.

58.  A major problem was the difficulties in delivering clear information on the authorities’ decisions. In Finland, under the Act on the Openness of Government Activities, everyone has the right of access to official documents in the public domain.70 Accordingly, the Government was criticized on various occasions for not openly revealing the grounds for the decisions according to the Act, and Finnish news media addressed several concerns regarding access to information raised by different agencies.

59.  For example, in spring 2020, the Prime Minister’s Office’s procedures were criticized, since it had not published minutes of the Covid-19 Coordination Group.71 The Group implemented the decisions made by the Government to contain Covid-19 and to organize the work between ministries. The minutes of the Group were first kept secret,72 and given to the press only after a debate. In spring 2020, the Government, when using the powers of the Emergency Powers Act, was criticized for not publishing the justifications for the restrictions on people’s movement between the southern Uusimaa region and the rest of Finland.73 In spring 2021, the Government also did not publish the documents of the pandemic exit strategy, and the information became public only through the Government’s decisions. The Finnish News Agency (STT) made several requests for documents to different ministries and public organizations, which responded differently to the requests: some ministries quickly distributed documents to news media, but some kept documents secret.74 Several experts criticized these procedures since the restrictions had a considerable impact on citizens’ lives.75

60.  The co-ordination of policies between key ministries and the THL proved to be difficult in the circumstances of the pandemic, and these difficulties were reflected in the dissemination of information. In some cases, the information from the Government was unclear and at times contradictory due to conflicting views between various authorities.76 For instance, Government policies on the use of masks caused a major debate in 2020 as the authorities’ information was unclear and there seemed to be disagreements among the authorities on the correct policy.77

61.  Furthermore, the leading authority on health issues, the THL, received substantial criticism starting in early spring 2020 for not disseminating information on Covid-19, and later for not revealing the scientific assumptions for its modelling that was used as a basis for policy measures.78 The THL finally agreed to publicize the information in May 2020.79 Later, in 2021, THL seemed to adopt a more open communication policy by giving instructions and recommendations on appropriate measures. THL was concerned, among others, about the new, more infectious variants of Covid-19. This policy was, however, somewhat confusingly criticized by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, which did not see it as appropriate. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry saw it as problematic that the THL started giving its own recommendations on appropriate measures against Covid-19 in public on matters that fell within the Government’s powers.80

G.  Ombuds and oversight bodies

62.  There are two supreme oversight authorities of legality in Finland: the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Chancellor of Justice. Their powers and tasks overlap to a large degree. However, the Chancellor of Justice is exempted from overseeing issues concerning the defence forces, the border guard, and peacekeeping personnel.81

63.  The Parliamentary Ombudsman supervises and promotes the legality and the implementation of fundamental rights and human rights in the activities and actions of the authorities and of private parties performing public tasks. The supervisory work of the Ombudsman is mainly based on giving decisions on individual complaints and performing on-site inspections. In 2020, the Parliamentary Ombudsman received a total of 931 complaints related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The complaints concerned, among others, education, social welfare, and healthcare. In total, the Ombudsman received a record 7,059 complaints, which was approximately 800 complaints more than in 2019. Due to the pandemic, the number of on-site inspections (23) was, instead, considerably lower in 2020 than in 2019 (104).82

64.  The Chancellor of Justice supervises the lawfulness of the official acts of the Government, the ministries, and the President of the Republic. The Chancellor is also responsible for ensuring that the courts of law, other authorities, and civil servants, as well as other persons or bodies assigned to perform public tasks, comply with the law and fulfil their assigned obligations. By 21 August 2020, the Chancellor had received 353 complaints and initiated 12 inquiries ex officio concerning the pandemic. The total number of complaints was over 420 complaints more than at the same time in 2019.83

65.  In addition to the supreme oversight authorities, the six regional State administrative agencies are also in charge of overseeing the management of communicable diseases in their respective areas by virtue of the Communicable Diseases Act (Section 8). As has already been mentioned in Part II.C above, the agencies have executive powers regarding communicable diseases. Hence, the agencies oversee the observance of their own regional decisions. However, the agencies also oversee the municipalities’ legal responses to the pandemic. The oversight is based on complaints and inspections. The pandemic increased the workload of the agencies. In 2020, they dealt with 141 Covid-19-related matters, of which 107 were based on complaints.84

66.  On 3 September 2020, the Government appointed an independent team to investigate the response to the Covid-19 pandemic during its first wave, ie, the response from the start until 31 July 2020. The team worked alongside the Safety Investigation Authority (Onnettomuustutkintakeskus) (OTKES) and published its investigation report on 30 June 2021. The team found several shortcomings in the actions of the authorities and recommended, among others, a reform of the contemporary crisis management model and the creation of a new model of exchange of information between the Government, regional authorities, and municipalities.85

IV.  Public Health Measures, Enforcement and Compliance

67.  The Finnish legal response to the pandemic can be divided into three phases which correspond to the seriousness of the Covid-19 situation. With the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, the first state of emergency was declared and lasted three months. During this period, traffic and movement between the southernmost province of Uusimaa and the rest of Finland was heavily restricted and restaurants and pubs were closed in the whole of Finland. These measures were introduced by the Government. The second phase started in June 2020 when the number of confirmed infections had decreased almost to zero. Instead of extensive nationwide measures, more targeted measures based on the situation in respective regions as well as increased testing and tracing was preferred—the so-called ‘hybrid’ strategy. During this second phase, the main legal responses were still largely decided by the Government. The third phase began in October 2020 as the confirmed number of infections began to rise rapidly—the second wave of the pandemic. Restrictions on restaurants and pubs became stricter again. At the height of the third wave of the pandemic, in March 2021, a state of emergency was declared for the second time. However, this time the provisions of the Emergency Powers Act were put into operation only to a small degree. There was no need to restrict domestic travelling or close restaurants and pubs in the whole country.86

68.  The hybrid strategy is based on a classification of three epidemiologic phases:

  1. a.  Stable level – local and regional transmission chains occur only occasionally, and incidence is low. Transmission chains are manageable, and the exposed individuals can be traced without delay.

  2. a.  Acceleration phase – there are many local and regional transmission chains, and incidence is higher than at the stable level, ie the percentage of individuals testing positive is above one and large-scale exposures occur.

  3. b.  Community transmission phase – the percentage of individuals testing positive is above two and that the need for inpatient and intensive hospital care is projected to increase. Contact tracing becomes more difficult.87

A.  Public health measures

1.  Individual mobility restrictions on citizens (stay-at-home, curfews, etc)

69.  The Emergency Powers Act (Section 118) makes it possible for the Government to issue a decree to temporarily restrict or forbid stays and movement in specified areas or regions if deemed necessary for the prevention of a danger seriously threatening the lives or health of the people. In practice, this provision would allow the Government to impose curfews and stay-at-home orders. Furthermore, Section 23 of the Constitution would also enable the Parliament to pass an act or the Government to issue a decree to impose similar measures. Hence, both provisions could be used to order a curfew.

70.  At the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020, the Government strongly recommended that all those aged 70 and older should avoid close contact with others and stay at home in quarantine-like conditions.88 Some municipalities and federations of municipalities made short-term recommendations to stay at home and limit contacts to a minimum when there appeared to be a sudden increase in the Covid-19 infections locally or regionally.89

71.  In March 2021, at the height of the third wave, the Government presented the Parliament with a Bill for an Act on Temporary Restriction of Movement and Close Contacts by virtue of Section 23 of the Constitution.90 According to the bill, the proposed act would have authorized the Government to issue decrees on individual municipalities or regions where people’s movement outside their homes would have been forbidden (ie, a curfew). The period of validity of such decrees would have been limited to 21 days at a time. However, the bill did not pass the review of the Constitutional Law Committee of the Parliament. In its statement on the bill, the Committee stated that with regards to the contemporary Covid-19 situation the prohibition of movement was not necessary and, on the contrary, would have entailed a disproportionate intervention on the freedom of movement. The Committee also saw that the provisions of the proposed act were unclear and complex, with numerous exceptions. The Committee argued that the same aims could be reached with more focused bans and restrictions on private occasions, public gatherings, and shopping.91 Consequently, the Government withdrew the bill.

72.  In conclusion, no mandatory curfews or stay-at-home measures have been imposed in Finland during the pandemic.

2.  Restrictions on international and internal travel

73.  On 17 March 2020, the Government made a decision to reintroduce border control at European Union (EU) internal borders temporarily between 19 March–13 April 2020.92 The decision was based on Section 15 of the Border Guard Act.93 According to the decision, entry into Finland would only be allowed for Finnish nationals, non-nationals residing in Finland, non-nationals residing in another EU Member State (transit travel via Finland), essential work/business travelling, other necessary travelling, and freight traffic. The validity of the decision has been extended numerous times by a new decision, for a maximum of 30 days at a time.94 Some changes to the original decision have, of course, been made during the course of the pandemic, such as a loosening of the conditions of entry from individual countries depending on their respective Covid-19 situations. However, the main principles of the regulation of entry have stayed more or less the same. On 8 July 2021, the Government decided to end the border control at EU internal borders when a new entry model was introduced (see Part IV.A.2 below).95

74.  On 17 March 2020, the Government also made a decision to restrict travelling and traffic at EU external borders temporarily between 19 March and 13 April 2020.96 This decision was based on Section 16 of the Border Guard Act. The contents of the restrictions were the same as at EU internal borders. This decision has likewise been extended and changed numerous times during the pandemic.97

75.  In April 2020, Professor Martin Scheinin filed a complaint with the Chancellor of Justice against the Government’s decisions from 17 March 2020. He claimed in the complaint that the wording of the decisions, in particular the phrase ‘other necessary travelling’, was unclear and thus gave border authorities too much discretion, especially in light of the freedom of movement guaranteed by the Constitution (Section 9) and free movement of persons under EU law. In his decision, the Chancellor found that no infringement of these freedoms had taken place although the Government’s decisions could have been clearer in their wording and the respective memoranda better justified.98

76.  The Government’s decisions to uphold border control and the strict entry conditions at EU internal borders has also caused friction between Finland and Estonia because of the high number of Estonians working in Finland and commuting between the two countries. In June 2021, all seven Estonian Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) appealed jointly to the European Commission about the Finnish travel restrictions.99

77.  In order to get rid of the questionable border control at EU internal borders, the Government introduced a Bill on Temporary Amendments to the Communicable Diseases Act and the Act on Transport Services by 1 October 2020, in which it proposed that the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare would have the authority to make decisions by which passengers arriving from high-risk countries would have needed to present a recent negative PCR test result or a proof of recovery from Covid-19.100 However, the Constitutional Law Committee of the Parliament stated that the bill was too poorly prepared to be discussed in the Parliament.101 As a consequence, the Government withdrew the bill. In the following year, the Government introduced a new Bill on Temporary Amendments to the Communicable Diseases Act, in which a revised entry model was proposed.102 This time, the Parliament accepted the bill with minor changes on 2 July 2021, and the Communicable Diseases Act was amended accordingly.103 Basically, persons arriving to Finland from high-risk countries need to present a certificate of: (1) full vaccination (two doses) received at least 14 days earlier; (2) a negative test result no more than 72 hours old; or (3) recovery from Covid-19 six months earlier at the most. If a person fails to present any of these certificates, they must submit themselves to a Covid-19 test at the border and again within 72–120 hours after entry. The amended provisions also include some exceptions to these main rules. The amendments are valid until 15 October 2021.

78.  High-risk countries are defined by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare in its instructions from 4 February 2021, ie countries where the incidence is more than 25 per 100,000 inhabitants within last 14 days.104

79.  The Communicable Diseases Act (Section 15) authorizes regional State administrative agencies to give orders to municipalities to conduct targeted health inspections at various locations, including border checkpoints. The agencies may also give orders on mandatory health inspections (Section 16) if deemed necessary to prevent the spread of a generally hazardous communicable disease. In March 2021, the provision on mandatory health inspections was amended to clarify that mandatory inspections can be ordered of both individuals and groups of persons. The amendment also authorized municipal physicians responsible for communicable diseases to decide on mandatory inspections of individual persons.105

80.  By virtue of Section 16 of the Communicable Diseases Act, all regional State administrative agencies have, indeed, already given orders on mandatory health inspections at borders before the new entry model. For instance, the regional State administrative agency for Southern Finland issued an order on 17 March 2021 that all passengers arriving to Finland from high-risk countries via Helsinki-Vantaa airport, Helsinki Harbour, and Vaalimaa land border checkpoint must submit themselves to an inspection.106 The inspection may entail a Covid-19 test if the passenger cannot present a negative test result (of a maximum 72 hours old) or a proof of recovery from Covid-19 (less than six months old). A passenger who refuses the inspection can be placed in a quarantine for 14 days by an order of a municipal physician. The order was valid from 18 to 31 March 2021, but it was extended with new orders for one month at a time.107 Other regional State administrative agencies gave similar orders for their respective territories.108

81.  Already before the new entry model, there was a strong recommendation by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare to those who were arriving in Finland from high-risk countries to avoid contact with people other than those living in the same household or place of lodging until they have had a negative result from a Covid-19 test conducted no earlier than 72 hours after the arrival.109

82.  At no point have people been prohibited from leaving Finland. There has only been a strong recommendation by the Government to avoid all unnecessary travel abroad in general. As for individual countries where the Covid-19 situation has been bad, it has been recommended to avoid travel to these countries altogether.

83.  With regards to domestic travel, the Government has restricted travel only once during the outbreak of the Covid-19 in March 2020. By virtue of Section 118 of the Emergency Powers Act, the Government issued a Decree on Temporary Restrictions on Movement to Protect the Population on 27 March 2020.110 The Decree prohibited traffic and movement between the southernmost province of Uusimaa and the rest of Finland with some exceptions such as travel concerning official duties and positions of trust, work and business, studies, military service, care of close relatives, and visitation rights. The decree was valid from 28 March to 19 April 2020.

84.  This decree brought about complaints with the Parliament Ombudsman. Many complaints concerned the actions of the police in the monitoring of the prohibition. For instance, whether police had interpreted the wording of the decree, ‘care of close relatives’, correctly,111 how far from the Uusimaa border the police could pull over cars,112 and if the police’s practice to impose fines was lawful.113

3.  Limitations on public and private gatherings and events

85.  The Communicable Diseases Act (Section 58) authorizes the municipal body responsible for the control of communicable diseases to prohibit general meetings and public events in the municipality’s territory. The regional State administrative agencies may make corresponding decisions in their respective jurisdictions when prohibitions are needed for an area covering several municipalities. Decisions can only be made for a maximum of one month at a time.

86.  All six regional State administrative agencies decided already on 17 March 2020 that all general meetings and public events with more than 10 people were prohibited.114 New decisions have been given throughout the pandemic, and the number of maximum people has varied mainly from six to 50 people depending on the existing epidemiological situation. In July 2020, indoor public events with up to 500 people as well as outdoor public events with even more than 500 people were allowed if special arrangements were followed.115

87.  On 24 August 2020, when the first signs of the second wave of the pandemic had appeared, the agencies made decisions on restrictions for public events for September 2020. The decisions were made after the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health had first sent general instructions for the agencies.116 Shortly after the agencies’ decisions, their legitimacy was questioned. At least one appeal got all the way to the Supreme Administrative Court. In its judgment, the Court concurred with the judgment of the Administrative Court stating that the appellant did not have the right to appeal because the decision of the agency had not directly concerned their rights or duties.117 The Chancellor of Justice also received complaints in which, among others, the authority of the Ministry to give such instructions was questioned. The Chancellor gave his decision on 21 September 2020 in which he stated that the Ministry had not exceeded its powers because the instructions were not meant as binding.118

88.  In June 2021, for the first time during the pandemic, some regional State administrative agencies were able to make decisions to revoke the restrictions on general meetings and publics events altogether because of the favourable incidence figures in their respective territories.119

89.  Neither the Communicable Diseases Act nor any other law authorize the regional State administrative agencies or other authorities to set restrictions on private gatherings and events. The Government has recommended, however, that the same restrictions on public events should be followed also in private gatherings and festivities.120

4.  Closure of premises and facilities (eg schools, shops, services, parks, churches, sport facilities)

90.  In addition to prohibiting public events, the Communicable Diseases Act (Section 58) authorizes the municipal body responsible for the control of communicable diseases to close social and health care units, educational institutions, day care centres, residential apartments, and other similar facilities in the municipality’s territory. The regional State administrative agencies may make corresponding decisions in their respective jurisdictions when the decisions are needed for an area covering several municipalities. Decisions can only be made for a maximum of one month at a time.

91.  All six regional State administrative agencies decided on 17 March 2020 that all schools, polytechnics, universities, and other educational institutions were to be closed in the whole country. Teaching was organised online and using digital learning platforms. However, children in preschool education, from first to third grade, and whose parents were in critical line of work (eg healthcare professionals) could continue to go to school.121 The general closure ended on 14 May 2020 through the regional State administrative agencies decisions.122 During the second and third wave of the pandemic, in autumn 2020 and spring 2021, individual municipalities made temporary decisions on closures of and distance teaching in lower and upper secondary schools.

92.  When the pandemic broke out in March 2020 and the first state of emergency (16 March–15 June 2020) was declared (see Part II.A above), it appeared that neither the Emergency Powers Act nor the Communicable Diseases Act included provisions that would have enabled the authorities to close establishments serving food and/or drinks in case of a pandemic. New legislation was thus needed. By virtue of Section 23 of the Constitution, the Parliament enacted a temporary amendment to the Act on Accommodation and Food Service Activities.123 Through the amendment, premises of all restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes, etc, were closed in the entire country. Takeaway sale was allowed, however, and the closure did not apply to canteens. The closure was effective from 4 April until 31 May 2020. During the second state of emergency (1 March–27 April 2021), the Act on Accommodation and Food Service Activities was temporarily amended again.124 This time, the closure lasted from 29 March until 18 April 2021. Unlike the first closure, the second closure was limited by a Government decree to 14 provinces and one municipality where the closure was considered necessary because of the regional Covid-19 situations.125 Later, the regional scope of the original decree was curbed with two amending decrees.126

93.  The Constitutional Law Committee of the Parliament required already in its statement on the first Bill on the Temporary Amendment to the Act on Accommodation and Food Service Activities that the losses brought by the closure should be compensated to the establishments.127 As a consequence, the Parliament passed an Act on Re-Employment Subsidies and Compensations for Losses of Restaurants,128 which entered into force on 5 June 2020 by a Government’s implementing decree.129 By the end on June 2021, almost EUR 60 million of subsidies and compensations had been paid to restaurants.130

94.  In addition to closures, the opening hours of restaurants have been restricted throughout the pandemic. This has been done by virtue of a temporary amendment to the Communicable Diseases Act.131 The precise restrictions have been implemented by several consecutive Government decrees, the validity of which has ranged from one to three months.132

95.  Furthermore, a temporary amendment to the Communicable Diseases Act authorized municipal physicians responsible for communicable diseases as well as regional State administrative agencies to also close sports facilities for 14 days at a time.133 Indeed, some regional State administrative agencies made such decisions. For instance, on 31 March 2021, the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland made a decision by which sports facilities, public swimming pools, dance halls, amusement parks, indoor play centres, etc, were to be closed for two weeks. Children born in 2008 and after, professional athletes, and private activities were exempted from the closure.134

5.  Physical distancing

96.  Early on, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare recommended that people should voluntarily hold a one to two metre distance between each other whenever possible. In January 2021, when the knowledge of more contagious Covid-19 variants began to emerge, the Institute recommended that the distance should be more than two metres.135

97.  Later, in February 2021, the two-metre rule also found its way into legislation. According to a temporary amendment to the Communicable Diseases Act, both municipal boards responsible for the prevention of communicable diseases and regional State administrative agencies may give, in their respective jurisdictions, binding decisions on the use of public and commercial premises and the number of people indoors so that close contact, ie distances shorter than two metres and over 15 minutes, could be avoided.136 The provision does not apply to schools nor homes. Such a decision can only be made if the incidence is regionally more than 25 per 100,000 inhabitants and there are untraceable clusters of infections. A decision may only be in force for one month at a time. Many regional State administrative agencies gave, indeed, such decisions during spring 2021.137

6.  Use of face coverings and personal protective equipment (PPE)

98.  The use of face masks has not been compulsory at any point. However, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare has strongly recommended their use whenever close contact cannot be avoided.138

99.  As explained in Part IV.A.1 above, in March 2021, the Government introduced the Parliament a Bill for an Act on Temporary Restriction of Movement and Close Contacts.139 The proposed act would have authorized the Government to issue decrees on individual municipalities or regions where people’s movement outside their homes would have been forbidden. If movement outside one’s home could not be avoided, eg food shopping, the use of a face mask indoors and on public transport would have been obligatory. The Constitutional Law Committee did not see in its statement any principled constitutional problems in the compulsory use of face mask per se, but the bill was considered unconstitutional for other reasons.140 Even though the Government withdrew the bill, from March 2021 onwards, most traffic companies began to require all passengers over 12 years old to wear a face mask.141

7.  Isolation of infected individuals and quarantine of individuals suspected of infection

100.  The Communicable Diseases Act includes provisions on both isolation of an infected person (eristäminen, Section 63) and quarantine of a person exposed to a generally hazardous communicable disease (karanteeni, Section 60). In both cases, the decision must be made by a municipal physician responsible for communicable diseases and the prerequisites for making the decisions are the same, ie ‘there is an obvious risk of the spread of a generally hazardous communicable disease or a disease that is justifiably suspected of being generally hazardous, and the spread of the disease cannot be prevented by other means.’

101.  Regarding Covid-19, the length of legally imposed quarantine is usually 14 days and the quarantine cannot be shortened by taking a Covid-19 test. During a quarantine and an isolation, outdoor activities are allowed as long as the individual keeps a two-metre distance from others. Going to the workplace, shopping, outdoor hobbies, etc, are not allowed.142

102.  Municipal physicians have ordered individuals and larger groups into quarantine on numerous occasions. Such quarantines have concerned, for instance, entire school classes,143 students of educational institutions,144 grocery workers,145 and ice hockey teams.146 In 2020, a total of 81,343 people were ordered into quarantine, and the number is estimated to be much higher for 2021.147

103.  In addition to legally binding quarantines, there was a strong recommendation by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare to those arriving in Finland from high-risk countries to voluntarily avoid contact with people other than those living in the same household or place of lodging until they have had a negative result from a Covid-19 test conducted no earlier than 72 hours after the arrival.148 However, this voluntary quarantine became mandatory when the new entry to Finland model was introduced in July 2021 (see Part IV.A.2 above). The 72-hour quarantine is not necessary if one can present a valid Covid-19 certificate at the border.

8.  Testing, treatment, and vaccination

104.  Soon after the outbreak of Covid-19, on 9 April 2020, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health drew up a National Covid-19 Testing Strategy that was based on the principle of: ‘test – track – treat’. According to the strategy, the testing capacity was quickly to be increased to 10,000 tests per day. Testing was aimed, among others, at anyone seeking medical care and experiencing symptoms, social welfare and healthcare personnel when there was even the slightest suspicion of infection, high-risk groups when there was a suspicion of infection or exposure to the virus, and persons belonging to the close circle of an infected person.149

105.  Testing is voluntary as a premise. Anyone having at least one of the symptoms of Covid-19 infection were advised to get themselves tested. However, there are also two types of mandatory tests. First, by virtue of Section 16 of the Communicable Diseases Act, regional State administrative agencies and municipal physicians responsible for communicable diseases have the authority to order mandatory health inspections, including taking a Covid-19 test. Indeed, some agencies have ordered such inspections.150 Second, in July 2021, Covid-19 testing was made mandatory by the law itself (ipso jure) for those arriving in Finland without a Covid-19 certificate (see Part IV.A.2 above).

106.  Testing is free of charge in cases of a suspected infection and on entry into Finland. However, if an individual needs a negative test result to travel abroad, they were required to take a test with a private sector laboratory that charges for the test. One can claim part of those costs as reimbursement from the Social Insurance Institution of Finland.

107.  According to the Communicable Diseases Act (Section 18), testing of communicable disease requires an operating licence issued by regional State administrative agencies. Licences can be issued to both public and private laboratories. In June 2020, the agencies published a summary of relevant regulation of and requirements for testing for laboratories.151

108.  Indeed, both public and private laboratories have carried out Covid-19 testing. There occurred some problems locally in testing capacity in autumn 2020, when the holiday season ended, and people got back to work and school. The aim was to raise the capacity to 20,000 tests per day so that everyone could be guaranteed a test result within 24 hours.152 By 28 July 2021, a total of 5,847,800 Covid-19 tests had been done in Finland, and 104,495 samples had been found positive (ca 1.78%).153

109.  Finland was involved in all of the European Union’s purchases of Covid-19 vaccines, and the vaccination of the population began in Finland on 27 December 2020.154 According to Section 45 of the Communicable Diseases Act, the Government is responsible for deciding on general voluntary vaccinations, and it is the responsibility of the municipalities to organise them. Section 47 of the Act authorizes the Government to also decide on mandatory vaccinations, but Covid-19 does not fulfil the criteria set for them.

110.  The vaccination order of the population was defined in the Government Decree on Voluntary Covid-19 Vaccinations.155 The order of prioritization was the following: (1) social welfare and health care professionals working with infected or suspected Covid-19 patients or in nursing homes and units of supported accommodation; (2) individuals 70 years old and older; (3) people belonging to younger age groups who have diseases exposing them to serious forms of Covid-19; and (4) the rest of the population starting from older age groups and proceeding towards the younger ones. In March 2021, the National Expert Group on Vaccinations recommended that the distribution of vaccines should be prioritized based on the epidemic situation and number of populations in different regions.156 As a consequence, the Decree on Voluntary Covid-19 Vaccination was temporarily amended (valid from 19 April to 31 May 2021) accordingly.157 At the same time, the decree was also amended so that election officials were equated with the social welfare and health care professionals to guarantee the safety of voting in municipal elections (see Part III.D above).158

111.  On 30 March 2021, the Parliamentary Ombudsman received dozens of complaints concerning the right to choose between different Covid-19 vaccines. The complaints were brought about by the instructions of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare given on 24 March 2021. According to the instructions, AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccines could still be used on 65-year-olds and over but not on younger age groups because the link between said vaccine and the reported rare blood coagulation cases was still unclear.159 Later, on 18 May 2021, the Institute gave further instructions saying that those 65-year-olds and over who had initially received AstraZeneca as their first dose of the vaccine should be offered said vaccine as their second dose.160 Many municipalities took these instructions as binding and therefore offered only AstraZeneca to 65 to 69-year-olds, ie the age group whose turn it happened to be to take the vaccine at the time. The Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman recognised that these instructions subjected 65 to 69-year-olds to age discrimination. Furthermore, they had also been deprived of their right to self-determination as patients. The Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman concluded that although the Institute had based its instructions on sound medical knowledge and consideration, it had nevertheless neglected its duty to also carry out a juridical consideration. Correspondingly, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health had neglected its lawful duty to steer and monitor the actions of the Institute. Both the Institute and the Ministry were reprimanded.161

112.  By 3 August 2021, 66.2 % of the population had received their first dose, and 35.2 % both doses.162

9.  Contact tracing procedures

113.  As a part of the Government’s ‘hybrid strategy’ (see Part IV above), a Covid-19 contact tracing mobile app called Koronavilkku was launched on 31 August 2020 by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. Its legal basis is a temporary amendment (Chapter 4a) to the Communicable Diseases Act.163 The amendment is meant to be valid from 31 August 2020 until 31 December 2021. The app is downloadable free of charge and its use is voluntary.

114.  The enactment of the temporary amendment did not raise any major controversy. However, in its Statement on the Bill (101/2020 vp) the Constitutional Law Committee of the Parliament required a few changes in the bill before it could be passed in the normal enactment procedure. First, the provisions must be made clearer so that ordering a person into quarantine could not solely be based on the information provided by the mobile app, and that the authorities could not use the information for any other purposes than tracing contacts. Second, the provisions on the giving and cancellation of the user’s consent were also to be clarified.164

115.  Later, a further amendment to the temporary Chapter 4a of the Communicable Diseases Act was made to allow the compatibility of the Koronavilkku mobile app with other countries’ corresponding apps in cross-border situations.165

10.  Measures in long-term care facilities or homes for the elderly, restrictions on visitors etc.

116.  Already on 20 March 2020, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health issued instructions on Covid-19-related preventive measures in round-the-clock care facilities. The instructions were later updated on 9 April and 15 May 2020. The instructions included guidelines on how to protect both clients and personnel from being infected, for instance, by room arrangements, work shift arrangements, hygiene procedures, and prohibitions on visits.166

117.  On 16 June 2020, the Ministry further issued separate instructions on visits to social welfare and health care units during the Covid-19 epidemic.167 According to the instructions, directors of units could prohibit visits to the units if need be. The legal basis for prohibitions was provided, allegedly, by Section 17 of the Communicable Diseases Act which demands unit directors, on a general level, prevent infections in their units.

118.  The Ministry’s instructions as well as individual decisions to prohibit visits were soon called into question by family members of patients. Consequently, complaints were lodged with the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Regarding several complaints on, among others, visit prohibitions, the Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman concluded in her decision that the instructions on visit prohibitions issued by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health were incorrect. The instruction gave unit directors a false impression that the instruction would have been legally binding. This, in turn, had led to the outcome that prohibitions and restrictions on visits to round-the-clock care facilities were unlawful and without legal basis. The Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman urged the Ministry to immediately begin law drafting to amend legislation.168 By 2 July 2021, no amendments to the Communicable Diseases Act have been made.

119.  Unit directors’ decisions to prohibit or restrict visits also lead to appeals being made to administrative courts. For instance, the Administrative Court of Eastern Finland gave a ruling in which it came to more or less the same conclusion as the Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman: the municipality’s instructions were not legally binding, and the decision to restrict the meetings between the appellant and their mother lacked legal basis and was thus unlawful.169

B.  Enforcement and compliance

1.  Enforcement

120.  According to Section 2 of Chapter 44 of the Criminal Code,170 a person who does not abide by a decision made by virtue of the Communicable Diseases Act on a mandatory health inspection (Section 16), quarantine (Section 60), or isolation (Section 63) can be sentenced for a health protection violation to a fine or to imprisonment for a maximum of three months. The media has reported about individual cases where fines have been imposed.171 Furthermore, while the new model of entry to Finland was introduced in July 2021 (see Part IV.A.2 above), the Communicable Diseases Act was also amended with a new temporary provision (Section 87a) according to which anyone who deliberately or out of gross carelessness neglects their obligation to take a Covid-19 test, can be sentenced for a Covid-19 test violation to a fine.

121.  According to temporary Section 58b of the Communicable Diseases Act, the regional State administrative agencies can order restaurants to be closed for a month if they fail to abide by the decisions imposed on them on restricting the opening hours and/or number of clients. If necessary, the police will provide the agencies with executive assistance. The agencies have temporarily closed several restaurants on the basis of Section 58b.172 Moreover, if authoritative decisions concerning restrictions on the number of clients in premises other than restaurants (Section 58d), the closing of social welfare and healthcare units, schools and nurseries, shopping centres, sports venues, etc (Sections 58 and 58g), restrictions on number of passengers in transport services (Section 58f), and safety plans to restrict the spread of Covid-19 (Section 58h) are not complied with, the respective authorities (regional State administrative authorities, Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, and the municipalities) can impose conditional fines by virtue of Section 59c of the Act.

122.  The Finnish Defence Forces have played only a minor role in enforcing Covid-19 measures. According to Section 1 of the Act on the Defence Force’s Executive Assistance to the Police,173 the Defence Forces are obliged to provide executive assistance for the police, among others, in traffic control. In order to monitor the travel prohibition between Uusimaa and the rest of Finland in March–April 2020 (see Part IV.A.2 above), the police requested executive assistance from the Defence Forces. A total of some 800 conscripts and 50 regulars participated in the monitoring of the prohibition. During the operation, the police gave a total of 177 fines for the breach of the prohibition. Some of them were later found to be unwarranted (see Part IV.A.2 above).174

2.  Compliance

123.  Compliance with the public health measures is a manifold phenomenon influenced by many factors. One of the most important factors affecting compliance is citizens’ trust in the Government and the authorities in general. The citizens’ trust in experts and authorities during the course of the pandemic has been studied in Finland. For instance, in one study the citizens’ trust was studied in four online panel surveys in April 2020, June 2020, October 2020, and March 2021 (N=1052–1151). The surveys showed, among others, that ca 70% of the respondents considered scientific experts, ie university professors and experts of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, to be the most trustworthy in managing the pandemic. With regards to institutions—the Government, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, regional State administrative agencies, and the THL—there occurred one particularly interesting change in the trust during the one-year study period. While still in spring and summer of 2020, some 70% of the respondents considered that the Government had done ‘very well’ or ‘fairly well’ in the management of the crisis, but in March 2021 that number had come down to a little over 50%. The trust in the Ministry also decreased, although not as significantly. No significant change in the trust in regional authorities took place. In contrast, there appeared to be a slight increase in trust in the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.175

124.  A recent international comparative study was based on an online survey investigating the compliance with public health measures in 11 countries. The study was carried out in autumn 2020, and a total of 9,543 responses were received. The respondents were asked about their personal compliance with regards to 44 different public health measures. The study showed that the Finnish (and Indian) respondents reported the highest average compliance (80%) with all measures. The study also showed that the Finns had the highest trust in the Government as well as the health care system. In general, the study concluded that ‘more trust in the national Government that is perceived to take care of its citizens predicts an increase in compliance with most measures’.176

125.  The results of opinion surveys carried out in Finland seem to concur with the results on the above international comparative study. For instance, according to an opinion survey (N=1,044) carried out in November 2020, over 70% of respondents said that they wear face masks in public transportation and in other situations where required social distancing is not possible.177

Toomas Kotkas, Professor of Public Law, University of Helsinki

Anu Kantola, Professor of Media and Communication Studies, University of Helsinki

Hanna Wass, Adjunct Professor in Political Science, University of Helsinki

Elisa Husu, Researcher, Media and Communication Studies, University of Helsinki

Footnotes:

1  Constitution of Finland (731/1999).

2  Local Government Act (410/2015).

4  Emergency Powers Act (1552/2011), s 88.

5  Constitutional Law Committee of the Parliament, ‘Committee Statement PeVL 6/2021 vp’ (3 March 2021), 8.

6  Government Communications Department, Ministry of Education and Culture, and Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, ‘Government, in cooperation with the President of the Republic, declares a state of emergency in Finland over coronavirus outbreak’ (16 March 2020).

8  Government Communications Department, ‘Finland declares a state of emergency’ (1 March 2021).

9  Government Decision End the Use of Emergency Powers and the State of Emergency (VNK/2021/48) (27 April 2021); see also Government Communications Department, ‘State of emergency and use of powers under Emergency Powers Act to end on 27 April’ (27 April 2021).

11  United Nations Human Rights Committee, ‘General Comment No 29, States of Emergency (Article 4)’ CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.11 (31 August 2001), 11.

13  Communicable Diseases Act (1227/2016).

14  Government Decree on Communicable Diseases (146/2017) (9 March 2017).

16  See eg, MaRa, ‘The Government’s hybrid strategy must be updated immediately’ (12 August 2021).

18  Government Decree on Voluntary Covid-19 Vaccinations (1105/2020) (22 December 2020).

20  Government, ‘Restrictions during the coronavirus epidemic’ (updated 14 May 2021).

21  Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), ‘Recommendation on the use of face masks for citizens’ (updated 11 May 2021).

23  Government, ‘Replies to interpellations’ (accessed 31 May 2021).

25  Speaker’s Council of the Parliament, ‘Minutes PmNP 29/2020 vp’ (24 March 2020).

26  Parliament, ‘Speaker’s Council outlined practices for plenary sessions’ (8 September 2020).

30  Parliament, ‘Up-to-date information on the coronavirus situation’ (accessed 3 September 2021).

31  Parliament, ‘MPs are allowed to work remote’ (24 March 2020).

33  Parliamentary Communication (EK 41/2020 vp) (15 October 2020).

34  Parliamentary Communication (EK 14/2021 vp) (9 April 2021).

36  Emergency Powers Act (1552/2011).

37  K Alaja, ‘In the courts, Covid-19 is seen as a shift in sessions and increased remote processing’ Lakimiesuutiset (Online, 11 April 2020).

38  National Courts Administration Finland, ‘All cases in courts should be tried without jeopardizing anyone’s health’ (19 March 2020).

39  National Courts Administration Finland, ‘Suspended cases, verdicts and decisions due to the coronavirus epidemic’ (accessed 2 June 2021).

40  Criminal Procedure Act (689/1997).

42  National Courts Administration Finland, ‘Guidelines for courts on online hearings’ (155/09.00.02.01/2020) (accessed 2 June 2021).

43  Email from Kaisa Puro (National Courts Administration Finland) to Toomas Kotkas (3 June 2021) (on file with the author).

44  R Niemonen and T Forsberg, ‘Ministry of Justice: Municipal elections postponed to June, advance voting extended to two weeks’ Yle (Online, 6 March 2021).

45  Parliamentary Reply (EV 31/2021 vp) (26 March 2021).

51  Yle, ‘Finland to finally allow postal voting in 2019 elections’ (Online, 7 September 2018).

53  Constitutional Law Committee of the Parliament, ‘Committee report PeVM 4/2021 vp’ (19 March 2021), [21].

54  Ministry of Justice, ‘Questions and answers about municipal election arrangements during the corona pandemic’ (accessed 28 June 2021).

55  Ministry of Justice, ‘Ministry of Justice gives instructions on safe voting during COVID-19’ (accessed 28 June 2021).

56  Government, ‘Citizen Pulse 5.5.2021’ (accessed 28 June 2021).

57  Statistics Finland, ‘Municipal elections 2021, result of the control calculation’ (accessed 22 June 2021).

59 Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’ (accessed 2 September 2021).

60  Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, ‘Koronavilkku’ (accessed 2 September 2021).

62  Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, ‘Finnish National Infectious Diseases Register’ (accessed 2 September 2021).

63  Reporters Without Borders, ‘World Press Freedom Index 2021’ (accessed 2 September 2021).

64  Reporters Without Borders, ‘Online hate speech, but more trust in the media’ (10 June 2021).

65  European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, ‘ECRI Report on Finland (fifth monitoring cycle)’ (10 September 2019), 15–21.

66 Support was provided to 236 media outlets to promote journalism’ Finnmedia (Online, 23 December 2020).

67  Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, ‘Subsidy of 7.5 million euros will be provided to promote journalism’ (12 December 2020).

68  Ministry of Transport and Communications, ‘Covid-19 support to help the media’ (1 October 2020).

69  Ministry of Transport and Communications, ‘Working group proposes support formats for journalism’ (8 April 2021).

75  A Viitala, ‘THL's Calculations and Continuous Secrecy’ Koronablogi (7 June 2020); Telephone Interview between Elisa Husu and Tuomas Aivelo (9 June 2020).

81  Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland, ‘The Ombudsman and the Chancellor of Justice’ (accessed 4 June 2021).

82  Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland, ‘Parliamentary Ombudsman receives record number of complaints in 2020’ (25 January 2021).

83  The Office of the Chancellor of Justice, ‘Complaints over the corona pandemic keep the Chancellor busy’ (21 August 2020).

85  Safety Investigation Authority, ‘Investigation Report P2020-01’ (30 June 2021).

86  Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), ‘Confirmed coronavirus cases (COVID-19) in Finland’ (accessed 7 June 2021).

87  Government, ‘Phases of the COVID-19 epidemic’ (accessed 7 June 2021).

88  Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, ‘Advice for the over-70s on protecting themselves from the coronavirus’ (19 March 2020).

89  See eg City of Paimio, ‘Bulletin on the corona situation in Paimio and Sauvo’ (12 February 2021).

91  Constitutional Law Committee of the Parliament, ‘Committee statement PeVL 12/2021 vp’ (31 March 2021).

93  Border Guard Act (578/2005).

94  The Government’s consecutive extended and/or changed decisions were made on 24 March 2020 (SM/2020/24), 7 April 2020 (SM/2020/26), 7 May 2020 (SM/2020/32), 20 May 2020 (SM/2020/38), 12 June 2020 (SM/2020/44), 10 July 2020 (SM/2020/56), 23 July 2020 (SM/2020/58), 6 August 2020 (SM/2020/61), 20 August 2020 (SM/2020/70), 11 September 2020 (SM/2020/75), 24 September 2020 (SM/2020/81), 1 October 2020 (SM/2020/84), 8 October 2020 (SM/2020/90), 5 November 2020 (SM/2020/94), 19 November 2020 (SM/2020/105), 10 December 2020 (SM/2020/112), 7 January 2021 (SM/2020/117), 22 January 2021 (SM/2021/5), 11 February 2021 (SM/2021/10), 18 February 2021 (SM/2021/15), 11 March 2021 (SM/2021/18), 31 March 2021 (SM/2021/28), 22 April 2021 (SM/2021/38), 20 May 2021 (SM/2021/43), 3 June 2021 (SM/2021/50), and 19 June 2021 (SM/2021/58).

97  Government’s consecutive extended and/or changed decisions were made on 24 March 2020 (SM/2020/24), 7 April 2020 (SM/2020/27), 7 May 2020 (SM/2020/33), 20 May 2020 (SM/2020/38), 12 June 2020 (SM/2020/45), 10 July 2020 (SM/2020/57), 23 July 2020 (SM/2020/59), 6 August 2020 (SM/2020/62), 20 August 2020 (SM/2020/71), 27 August 2020 (SM/2020/73), 11 September 2020 (SM/2020/76), 24 September 2020 (SM/2020/82), 1 October 2020 (SM/2020/85), 8 October 2020 (SM/2020/89), 5 November 2020 (SM/2020/95), 19 November 2020 (SM/2020/106), 10 December 2020 (SM/2020/113), 7 January 2021 (SM/2020/118), 22 January 2021 (SM/2021/6), 11 February 2021 (SM/2021/11), 18 February 2021 (SM/2021/16), 11 March 2021 (SM/2021/19), 31 March 2021 (SM/2021/29), 22 April 2021 (SM/2021/37), 20 May 2021 (SM/2021/44), 3 June 2021 (SM/2021/51), 29 June 2021 (SM/2021/59), and 8 July 2021 (SM/2021/64).

98  Chancellor of Justice, Decision OKV/61/10/2020 (1 October 2020).

101  Constitutional Law Committee of the Parliament, ‘Committee Statement PeVL 32/2020 vp’ (15 October 2020).

104  Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), ‘Recommendation for border testing to prevent the spreading of new easily contagious SARS-CoV-2 variants’ (4 February 2021).

107  Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland, ESAVI/10292/2021 (31 March 2021), ESAVI/13542/2021 (22 April 2021), and ESAVI/18052/2021 (24 May 2021).

108  Regional State Administrative Agency for Eastern Finland, ISAVI/2625/2021 (31 March 2021), ISAVI/3119/2021 (23 April 2021), and ISAVI/4194/2021 (24 May 2021); Regional State Administrative Agency for Lapland, LAAVI/726/2021 (11 May 2021); Regional State Administrative Agency for Northern Finland, PSAVI/2487/2021 (1 April 2021), and PSAVI/4812/2021 (26 May 2021); Regional State Administrative Agency for Southwestern Finland, LSAVI/3379/2021 (25 March 2021), LSAVI/3704/2021 (1 April 2021), and LSAVI/6297/2021 (27 May 2021); Regional State Administrative Agency for Western and Inland Finland, LSSAVI/6114/2021 (16 April 2021).

109  Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, ‘Travel and the coronavirus pandemic’ (accessed 24 June 2021).

111  Parliamentary Ombudsman, Decision EOAK/3213/2020 (18 December 2020).

112  Parliamentary Ombudsman, Decision EOAK/2464/2020 (9 April 2021).

113  Parliamentary Ombudsman, Decision EOAK/2464/2020 (9 April 2021).

116  Regional State Administrative Agency, ‘In September public events with more than 50 people are allowed when their safety is secured’ (26 August 2020).

117  KHO 2020:108 23.10.2020/H483 (23 October 2020) (Supreme Administrative Court).

118  Chancellor of Justice, Decision OKV/1726/10/2020 (21 September 2020).

119  See eg Regional State Administrative Agency for Northern Finland, Decision (PSAVI/4947/2021) (1 June 2021); Regional State Administrative Agency for Lapland, Decision (LAAVI/865/2021) (31 May 2021); and Regional State Administrative Agency for Western and Inland Finland, Decision (LSSAVI/9323/2021) (9 June 2021).

120  Government, ‘Restrictions and recommendations during the coronavirus epidemic’ (accessed 14 June 2021).

127  Constitutional Law Committee of the Parliament, ‘Committee Statement PeVL 7/2020 vp’ (25 March 2020).

130  Developmental and Administrative Centre of Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment as well as Public Employment and Business Services (KEHA-keskus), ‘Subsidies Paid to Tourism and Restaurant Business’ (accessed 18 June 2021).

132  Governmental Decrees Temporarily Restricting the Activities of Food Businesses to Prevent the Spread of Communicable Diseases: (477/2020) (18 June 2020); (675/2020) (30 September 2020); (728/2020) (29 October 2020); (942/2020) (10 December 2020); and (166/2021) (26 February 2021).

135  Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), ‘New coronavirus variant spreads more easily – keep a distance of over two metres to others’ (21 January 2021).

137  See eg Regional State Administrative Agency for Southwestern Finland, Decision (LSAVI/2091/2021) (26 February 2021); and Decision (LSAVI/3702/2021) (31 March 2021).

138  Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, ‘Recommendation on the use of face masks for citizens’ (accessed 24 June 2021).

140  Constitutional Law Committee of the Parliament, ‘Committee Statement PeVL 12/2021 vp’ (31 March 2021).

141  See eg National Railway (VR), ‘Train and travel safety’ (accessed 24 June 2021).

142  Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, ‘Quarantine and isolation’ (accessed 24 June 2021).

144  P Ruokangas, ‘Nearly 90 people were quarantined at Redu's two units in Rovaniemi’ Yle (Online, 24 June 2021).

146  S Arkko and M Tahkokorpi, ‘Coronary infection in HIFK's league team - HIFK, SaiPa and KooKoo quarantined’ Yle (Online, 24 June 2021).

148  Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, ‘Travel and the coronavirus pandemic’ (accessed 24 June 2021).

149  Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, ‘National Covid-19 Testing Strategy’ (9 April 2020).

151  Regional State Administrative Agency, ‘A Summary of the regulation of and requirements for Covid-19 testing’ (24 June 2020).

153  Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, ‘Situation update on coronavirus’ (accessed 3 August 2021).

154  Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, ‘Arranging COVID-19 vaccinations in Finland’ (accessed 29 June 2021).

155  Government Decree on Voluntary Covid-19 Vaccinations (1105/2020) (22 December 2020).

156  National Expert Group on Vaccinations, ‘Minutes of the meeting of the national expert group on vaccinations 4/2021’ (accessed 29 June 2021).

161  Parliamentary Ombudsman, Decision EOAK/3432/2021 (23 July 2021).

162  Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, ‘The progress of Covid-19 vaccinations’ (accessed 3 August 2021).

164  Constitutional Law Committee of the Parliament, ‘Committee Statement PeVL 20/2020 vp’ (17 June 2020).

166  See eg, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, ‘The prevention of coronavirus infections in round-the-clock care units’ (15 May 2020, later repealed).

167  Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, ‘Instructions on Visits in Social Welfare and Health Care Units during the Corona Epidemic’ (16 June 2020).

168  Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman, EOAK 3232/2020 (18 June 2020).

169  20/1059/1 (16 October 2020) (Administrative Court of Eastern Finland).

170  Criminal Code (39/1889).

175  E Väliverronen and R Jallinoja, ‘Suomalaisten näkemykset asiantuntijoista ja rokotuksista – Havaintoja muutoksista ensimmäiseltä koronavuodelta’ (2021) 86 Yhteiskuntapolitiikka 323.

176  I Georgieva et al, ‘Perceived Effectiveness, Restrictiveness, and Compliance with Containment Measures against the Covid-19 Pandemic: An International Comparative Study in 11 Countries’ (2021) 18 International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 11.