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dpa/GNA – The Finnish government on Monday declared a state of emergency, which enhances its powers to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The government also announced it would move ahead with the temporary closure of cafes, bars and restaurants in areas where the epidemic is considered to be in either an acceleration or community transmission phase.

The three-week shutdown, mooted last week, is to start on March 8, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said.

The government said the emergency declaration was made in cooperation with President Sauli Niinisto, citing a section in the Emergency Powers Act under which an outbreak of a serious infectious disease can be comparable to a major disaster.

Last week, the country of 5.5 million saw a new daily high in cases. They now total more than 58,000 cases and more than 740 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began.

After a Cabinet session, Marin urged people to avoid social gatherings, use face masks and maintain social-distancing.

The government cited an increase in the number of infections attributed to new, more transmissible virus strains “which may further accelerate the epidemic” and overwhelm health services.

Marin told reporters the government did not rule out introducing restrictions for travel to and from the different regions, as was the case last year in the Uusimaa region, which comprises the capital, Helsinki.

“We are preparing many different tools in advance should they be necessary,” Marin said.

The government later sought parliamentary approval for the temporary closure of restaurants, bars and similar establishments, but would allow take-away meals.

Businesses affected by the closure were recommended to seek support from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.

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