COVID-19 causes political rift between Finnish government and the City of Helsinki

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, 19 February 2020. [EPA-EFE/HAYOUNG JEON]

Although the 15% increase in hospital admissions in the city of Helsinki has prompted the closing of facilities, cancelling public events and applying distance learning, there appears to be a clear rift between key decision-makers in the city and government, to the point that they find it hard to agree whether they have attended the same meetings or not.

Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori said in a TV interview on Wednesday that the ministry of social affairs and health only holds discussions with health districts, but turns away from debating with big cities.

“I would say that it is not fair or business-like to talk and whisper behind the scenes, weeks on end. It would be okay just to pick up a phone and call me. The minister surely knows my number,” fumed Vapaavuori, who has a political history in the ranks of the National Coalition Party.

Meanwhile, within the government, Family and Basic Services Minister Krista Kiuru (SDP) said earlier in the week that an Emergency Act is just “days away”. Prime Minister Sanna Marina, Social Democrat herself, was quick to comment that the law would be the “last resort”.

For a country that often boasts about its consensus-building and crisis management skills, the decision-making process appears less than flattering, with organisational problems, communicative firewalls, big egos and party-line divisions. (Pekka Vänttinen |

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