According to the President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö, the important thing in the efforts to contain the coronavirus is to implement the decisions already made. To accomplish this, we all must shoulder our share of responsibility.
President Niinistö talked about the coronavirus in a special broadcast on Yle Radio 1 and Radio Suomi on Friday 20th March 2020. In the interview, the President underlined individual responsibility in the face of this new and challenging situation, in which the Government has for example urged people to avoid social contact. He says that citizens have seldom been left with such executive powers as now, and so they should be exercised wisely.
“Usually, when official decisions are made, it’s the Government and the authorities that implement them. Now implementation is also up to us all – for our own part and in relation to others. As such, these decisions alone are useless if they are not complied with,” he said.
President Niinistö went on to say that what is bothering him in the public debate is the division of people into those over 70 and those under. The elderly are not being excluded from society. Instead, these measures are designed to keep people healthy and engaged in society. “These decisions have been made to protect, not to exclude.”
In his opinion, it is high time to stop all reckless behaviour with regard to the coronavirus, as you may soon find yourself in a hospital bed. “At that point, many may wonder whether it would’ve been wise to have taken more precautions. At worst, this sort of ‘recklessness’ might lead to a situation in which you see your closest ones occupying the bed next to you. We need to use our common sense.”
Trying economic times
As well as causing a lot mental stress, the coronavirus spells trouble in the economy. For example, small businesses offering personal services have run into problems. If and when the pandemic draws out, even bigger companies will be facing growing difficulties.
In President Niinistö’s view, it is extremely important to keep as many operations and activities going as possible. He was confident that issues such as the rules of the economic game can be addressed later, in a broader context, once the worst is over.
“Afterwards, it may take years of deliberations to find ways to set things right. Even so, I still think that people in good health will be able to order their economic affairs once the pandemic is over. But if we allow ourselves to be infected in a big way, we’ll be in double trouble,” he said.
Unity and resilience in the face of adversity
On 20th March, the UN International Happiness Day, Finland was again announced as the happiest country in the world. Even in the state of emergency due to the coronavirus, Niinistö affirmed his belief in the Finns’ resilience and perseverance.
“Things are still fairly well in our welfare state. We are the happiest people in the world. This may have given rise to doubts as to how such a nation is able to cope with tough times. But it seems to me that these few weeks of the pandemic have already shown that we do have resilience and perseverance. When health, livelihood and the people around us are foremost on everybody’s mind, I think it’s an indication that we’ll stand the test of time.”
President Niinistö expressed his empathy for those who are getting stressed by the restraints on normal social interaction. “Unfortunately, no quick relief is in sight on a daily or weekly basis. Hopefully, it won’t take months. We must continue to act in a way that minimises physical proximity but fosters mental closeness.”
It is something he has already witnessed: “I think we’ve seen valuable examples of how people are helping one another. Sometimes, it’s called neighbourly love. If I see that another person is in distress, I’ll help the best I can. If there’s more of this kind of spirit, and there seems to be, we’re in a good way.”
A dark cloud with a silver lining
When the interviewer Petri Kejonen asked him about the potential silver linings of the corona cloud, the President mentioned spring and nature. “Nature is oblivious to our concerns. It’s living and thriving. It offers a measure of comfort in this situation. Another such silver lining could be that we have the opportunity to watch the progress of spring and how life triumphs.”
Additionally, the President reminded listeners of the need to look after themselves and others. “We’re free to cafe for one another. And we’re also free to take care of ourselves, follow the rules and recommendations that have been given – each for his and her own part irrespective of age. It’s freedom. It’s freedom from evil.”