Have any emergency powers been enacted in response to the covid-19 pandemic in your country? How long do they last, what are the provisions for extension/prolongation, what are the provisions for review?
The government together with the President declared a state of emergency in Finland on the 16th of March. In emergency conditions the government has the authority to apply the Emergency Powers Act (valmiuslaki, https://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/ajantasa/2011/20111552). The government started to apply the Act on the 17th of March. (https://valtioneuvosto.fi/en/article/-/asset_publisher/10616/hallitus-totesi-suomen-olevan-poikkeusoloissa-koronavirustilanteen-vuoksi)
The government can be authorised to use only those emergency powers that are indispensable for the achievement of the purpose of the Act. The emergency powers can be used and implemented only in ways that are indispensable for the achievement of the purpose of the Act.
The authorities can have emergency powers only if their standard powers are not sufficient in the situation.
The emergency powers can be achieved only by giving a decree for a fixed period, for 6 months at a time at most. The government must expressly state which powers the are going to apply and why they are needed. The parliament then decides if the decree can be applied as such or if it needs to be repealed.
The current emergency powers are applied until 13th of April. After that the government must decide whether the emergency powers are still required.
A decree concerning the use of emergency powers can be issued for six months at the most, and if the emergency conditions continue, the government can issue a new decree stating that the use of the emergency powers will continue. The new decree will also be given for a fixed period of no more than 6 months. The parliament will again decide if the decree can be applied as such or if it needs to be repealed.
All the decrees and decisions concerning emergency powers will have to be repealed when the emergency conditions have ended.
Have any restrictions on public gatherings been imposed?How are they enforced?
Public gatherings of more than 10 people are restricted, although not under the Emergency Powers Act, but the authorities’ regular powers. Municipal bodies or Regional State Administrative Agencies in larger areas can restrict public gatherings for a period of one month at a time, if there is an extensive risk of infection of a generally hazardous communicable disease (Communicable Diseases Act 1227/2016, tartuntatautilakihttps://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/alkup/2016/20161227).
The government recommended that Regional State Administrative Agencies make the decisions in their own regions.
First they restricted public gatherings of more than 500 people on the 13th of March until 12th of April.
Soon the government recommended that the gatherings of more than 10 people should be restricted. The Regional State Administrative Agencies made the decisions on 17th of March and now renewed them for the period of 14th of April until 13th of May.
All the Regional State Administrative Agencies’ decisions about the restriction of public gatherings are available here: http://www.avi.fi/web/avi/yleistiedoksiannot but unfortunately in Finnish only.
“The police is monitoring compliance with the restrictions on gatherings alongside other tasks and according to its resources. Everyone is responsible for personally acting responsibly.” (https://www.poliisi.fi/coronavirus_info/gatherings).
Have restrictions on leaving home been imposed? How are they enforced?
It’s recommended to stay home as much as possible, but no restrictions on leaving home.
One region, Uusimaa (that includes Helsinki), has had much more covid-19-cases than the rest of Finland. People wanted to go to their summerhouses for the period that they had to work from home, but that was seen as a threat to the smaller cities and regions that don’t have a volume of intensive care that could cover the people that don’t actually live there, so traffic in and out of Uusimaa was restricted.
Now you can only get in and out of Uusimaa, if it’s for work or transport of goods etc. You are also allowed to cross the border of Uusimaa if it is to fulfil any statutory responsibilities or to take care of a person close to you. Any leisure time travelling in and out is restricted. The police supervise all the traffic going in and out and asks everyone for reasons of why they are going through. If you don’t give an acceptable reason, you won’t get through.
This is until 19th of April for now.
The decrees of appliance of the Emergency Powers Act for restricting traffic in and out of Uusimaahttps://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/alkup/2020/20200145 and https://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/alkup/2020/20200146
Have any other new powers been granted to law enforcement authorities? (e.g. in the UK, to detain potentially infectious persons)
The government had to make new legislation to shut down the bars and restaurants. It was not at all possible before to shut bars or restaurants because of a reason like this, a risk of spreading of a communicable disease. The new legislation is temporary. Bars and restaurants are closed until 31stof May. The police monitors gatherings (https://www.poliisi.fi/coronavirus_info/gatherings).
The Border Guard have reintroduced border control temporarily under their regular powers of the Border Guard Act section 15 (rajavartiolaki, https://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/ajantasa/2005/20050578). The government made the decision on the grounds of threat to public health (https://valtioneuvosto.fi/paatokset/paatos?decisionId=0900908f8068f44f). The increased border control takes place until 13th of May.
Are the authorities making new use of telecommunications or other data?
Mobile phone operator Telia provides the government with statistic information on where the people are to see if there’s a lot of going to summerhouses and traffic between cities etc. No individuals can be recognized from the statistics. (https://www.telia.fi/yrityksille/palvelut/crowd-insights/henkilotietojen-kasittely)
Are there instances of law enforcement authorities exceeding powers? Can you provide a summary/summaries?
No, I have not heard of any.
Have any restrictions been placed on the media, or instructions handed down to media organisations, regarding reporting on the pandemic?
Not that we know of. The government is cooperating with social media influencers to make sure that the information about covid-19 in the social media is correct. A consultancy called PING Helsinki together with Mediapooli / Media Pool (a part of the National Emergency Supply Organisation) provides the government’s press releases edited into social media form, and gives them to social media influencers (https://pinghelsinki.fi/viesti-valtioneuvostolta-jokaisen-someviestijan-apua-tarvitaan/ and https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/01/finland-enlists-social-influencers-in-fight-against-covid-19).
What (if any) role has been given to the military?
The military is assisting the police at the checkpoints of in and out of Uusimaaasmutual administrative support and per the police’s request. They assist in traffic control and are not armed (https://puolustusvoimat.fi/covid-19). The military has no emergency powers at this point.
Information on this contribution
Contributor: Oona Alitalo (ooirka [at] utu.fi, +358 503 796 103)
Date of contribution: 9 April 2020
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