President Niinistö on the coronavirus: “We’re all in this together, supporting one another”

President Niinistö in a live interview with Sakari Sirkkanen in A-Talk Photo: Yle Areena

President Niinistö in a live interview with Sakari Sirkkanen in A-Talk Photo: Yle Areena

According to President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö, the spread of the coronavirus has affected society as a whole and people’s behaviour.  The President commented on the coronavirus in the A-Talk current affairs show aired by the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE on 12 March.

President Niinistö said that he believed that the coronavirus has already affected people’s behaviour and attitudes regarding travel and free-time activities. Today, the Foreign Ministry urged people to avoid foreign travel and the Government recommended that all public events of more than 500 people be cancelled up to the end of May.

Although people across the world and in Finland are urged to maintain a physical distance to one another, the President wished that Finns would at the same time seek mental proximity. “What we need is the kind of thinking that I’m not alone in this, we’re all in this together. And in a sense, support one another.” He went on to say that he hoped that the coronavirus would also unite people: “In the face of adversity, people tend to stop navel-gazing.”

Can I be a risk to others?

President Niinistö also found it sound advice to underline the role of individuals in the efforts to contain the virus. In his view, it is important to stop and think whether you yourself can be a risk to others, and consider this when planning trips and meetings.

Although we are still talking about a low number of cases in this country, the President feared that the pattern of a sharp increase in infections witnessed abroad will be repeated here. “I’m afraid that we’ll more or less follow the same curve and won’t be able to get away much easier.” For this reason, the President underlined the need to consider exposed groups, such as the sick and elderly. “What we need to do now is focus on protecting those most at risk,” he said.

When asked about whether he had confidence in the Finnish healthcare system, Niinistö replied that he had no doubts regarding the healthcare services, at least as far as the quality of care was concerned.  “But of course questions arise if the numbers shoot up. That’s why it’s important to slow down the rate of increase, as it has been frequently pointed out. It’s clear that the total number of infections will grow. What matters is whether the curve shoots up sharply and suddenly or rises steadily, which would give more time and opportunities to nurse those first infected back to health.”

Quick deployment of all tools and resources

When asked whether the Emergency Powers Act should be invoked to contain the coronavirus, the President said that it would be advisable to determine whether the Communicable Diseases Act offered enough tools for this purpose. “Possibly, it does. Even so, it makes sense to ensure that we have all the means and tools readily available if they’re needed. These capabilities must be put in place.”

President Niinistö also said that he understood people’s concerns over the virus’ effects on the economy, but underlined that health was the first priority. “After all, the economy is just the economy and human lives are much more valuable. Let’s worry about them first.”