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Finnish Government Backs Down on Lockdown Plan as Movement Restrictions Ruled Unconstitutional

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The constitutional law committee called the proposal to enforce restrictions on movement “completely disproportional” as well as vague and subject to interpretation, something that may lead to discrepancies over what is forbidden or permissible.

Finland’s government has withdrawn its proposal to impose strict lockdowns in several “high-risk areas”, including the capital Helsinki, following objections from the country’s constitutional law committee, national broadcaster Yle reported.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin accepted that the proposed measures were deemed unconstitutional and agreed to send the bill, which would have imposed temporary restrictions on freedom of movement and close contacts, back to the drawing board.

In general, inhabitants of the locked down regions would only be permitted to meet members of their own household in indoor situations.

The committee opined that restrictions on movement must be targeted precisely at the presumed sources of infection, such as private gatherings and events, staying and moving around in groups and visiting shops and services.

In a special setback for the government, committee chair Antti Rinne, who happens to be Marin’s party colleague and predecessor as prime minister and former Social Democrat leader, called the proposal to ban movement “completely disproportional”.

Furthermore, the committee pointed out that the prohibitions in the government’s bill are vague and subject to interpretation, which may lead to discrepancies over what is forbidden and what isn’t.

“The problem is highlighted by the possibility of interpretation in the prohibitions, regulations, and their exceptions. It is virtually impossible for people to predict what is forbidden and permissible – and thus what is punishable”, Rinne said.

An administrative committee also considered the bill and is yet to give its verdict. However, the committee’s chair, Riikka Purra of the opposition nationalist Finns Party called the basic approach to restrictions on movement “problematic”, venturing that the changes demanded by the constitutional committee are so extensive that the government will have to completely restructure the proposal.

Marin accepted the defeat, and at the same time described the COVID-19 situation in Finland as “serious”, despite it being one of the least-affected nations in Europe. To date, the country has recorded just over 76,800 cases of the disease with merely 820 deaths, and has been widely praised for its timely response.

In a series of tweets, Marin also urged fellow Finns to avoid close contacts and advised them to “spend Easter only with the people closest to you and avoid unnecessary travel”, adding that “we still have to work together to make summer brighter for all of us”.

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