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World News

Finland to ban public meetings of more than 20 in Helsinki region

People wear face masks at the Hakaniemi Sunday market, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Helsinki, Finland November 1, 2020. Lehtikuva/Markku Ulander via REUTERS/Files

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Public meetings of more than 20 people will be banned in the region of Finland’s capital, Helsinki, to combat a rise in novel coronavirus infections, authorities said on Friday.

While Finland’s 14-day average of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants remains at Europe’s lowest level at 58, public health authorities said the rate was nearly twice as high in the capital region and thus the new restrictions were needed.

“The maximum number of people at indoor public events will be restricted to 20 in the capital region starting November 23 for three weeks,” Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori said.

In recent months, Finns have been able to enjoy relative liberties in comparison with many other Europeans under lockdowns, such as going to concerts and theatres, which will now be banned for three weeks.

On Thursday, the government decided to extend earlier travel restrictions, which require travellers from most countries to provide a negative COVID-19 test result upon arrival and to self-quarantine for 10 days or get tested a second time.

In the capital region, swimming halls, gyms and other sports venues will remain open with social distancing rules applied but adults’ team and contact sports will be interrupted, Vapaavuori said.

Authorities described the new restrictions as anticipatory but necessary due to high risk of rapid deterioration of the situation if no action was taken.

Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Robert Birsel

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