March 8, 2021

Wednesday’s papers: Ministry communication gaps, VR’s business class masks and birdspotters | Yle Uutiset


Kasvomaskia käyttäviä junamatkustajia 4. syyskuuta 2020.
Passengers on VR’s Extra Class coaches will be entitled to a disposable face mask and an empty seat adjacent to theirs.

Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä (Cen) has criticised the government’s internal communication flow on coronavirus measures, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) tweeted on Tuesday that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is preparing a comprehensive package of measures to prevent the spread of the epidemic. According to Marin, the matter will be brought to the government’s negotiations possibly as early as next week.

The economic affairs minister, however, told reporters on Tuesday that he does not know what the “broad set of measures” entails.

“At least our ministry has not been informed in any way,” Lintilä said when reporters asked him to comment on government measures.

“Believe me now! I don’t know what is being planned at the moment,” Lintilä continued.

According to the minister, there have been problems in the internal flow of information within the government. He said he wants faster and clearer communication.

Mask mandate on VR’s premium coaches

Passengers on Finnish state railways VR’s Ekstra Class coaches will be obliged to wear a face mask starting October 26, Helsingin Sanomat reports.

Ekstra class passengers will be entitled to a disposable face mask and an empty seat adjacent to the one they booked. They can also choose to wear their own face masks.

Topi Simola, director of passenger transport estimated that about half of train passengers currently wear face masks.

“Masks will be placed on the seats for passengers at the departure station. For those boarding the train at subsequent stations, the conductor will deliver the mask during the trip,” Simola said.

Tickets for seats in Ekstra Class, which are a bit more spacious and offer more amenities than in normal class coaches, come at an additional cost.

According to HS, if the passenger does not agree to use a face mask in the section after October 26, train staff can direct the passenger to another coach. However, Simola said he believes that such an extreme situation would be a rare occurrence.

According to VR, the mask mandate comes in response to customer surveys which indicated that passengers wish for a safer travel experience.

Of the 1,800 people who responded to VR’s customer survey at the end of September, 48 percent of customers said the mandatory use of face masks creates a sense of security. Over half of respondents were concerned about other passengers’ use of protective equipment.

Simola emphasised that this move does not indicate that there is an increased risk in travelling by VR trains.

“Trains and public transport are relatively safe. No infection chains have been detected in the trains,” he said.

Finland’s birding win

Nearly six million bird sightings were reported Europe-wide during the annual Eurobirdwatch20 spectator event last weekend, of which Finland accounted for the highest number from any one country at 2.5 million birds spotted.

According to Swedish daily Hufvudstadsbladet, the biggest European birdwatching event invites enthusiasts to follow the fascinating patterns of bird migration and observe how birds migrate southwards to their wintering grounds.

Active bird watchers, along with excellent autumn migration activity, accounted for Finland’s high numbers. More than 20,000 birdwatchers across the continent reported their sightings.

It is Finland’s geese that earned it the winning position, as hundreds of thousands of White-fronted geese (Anser albifrons) and Barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis) moved across southern Finland.

Inland, birding enthusiasts reported sightings of Red-throated Loons (Gavia stellata) in large numbers, and on the west coast, a large number of cranes. On Saturday, thousands of Ring-necked doves (Streptopelia capicola) were spotted.

The rarest bird spotted in Finland was the Great Snipe (Gallinago media), a species from eastern Siberia and the North American continent.

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