While many countries are grappling with a second wave of the coronavirus, Finland has stopped a surge in new infections at the lowest level in Europe, aided by the fact that social distancing is a given for Finns.
While a remote Nordic place and one of the lowest population densities in Europe speak for it in the fight against COVID-19, it helps many Finns to like personal space and solitude.
“Perhaps the Finnish personal comfort zone is a bit wider than in some other European countries. We want to keep people a meter or more away, or we feel uncomfortable,” said Mika Salminen, director of the Finnish health authority THL.
On Sunday, the 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in Finland per 100,000 population was 54.2. The European average is 576 and the most affected cases in Luxembourg is 1302.8, according to data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
In a Eurobarometer survey, 73% of Finnish respondents said that the measures to limit the first wave were very or fairly easy to manage, including 23% that they saw “even an improvement” in their daily life.
Many Finns enjoyed spending more time in nature or having saunas in their summer cottages by the lake.
“We like to walk in solitude through the woods and swim in the lakes. So many Finns actually enjoyed being able to get away from the cities,” said Kristian Wahlbeck, director of the Finnish Mental Health Association (MIELI ). said.
In April, the Finnish government’s first efforts to contain the virus were supported by Europe’s highest rate of remote working. Almost 60% of Finnish workers teleworked, according to a Eurofound study.
Around 2.5 million out of 5.5 million Finns have voluntarily downloaded the government contact tracing app that Salminen’s colleagues at health authorities in other European countries can only dream of.
“It’s actually a key factor in our strategy based on a very low threshold for testing, contact tracing … and quarantine,” Salminen said.
After the first wave, daily COVID-19 cases fell to zero in July, but the government maintained some of the strictest travel restrictions in Europe, allowing Finland to enter the second wave from a very low level of infection.
“On a bus, we’re in a vacant double seat and that’s like natural social distancing for us and I think it’s how we’re brought up,” said Juha, a teacher in the capital area.
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