The Rule of Law & COVID in Finland

The Chancellor of Justice supervises the lawfulness of the official acts of the Government, the ministries and the President of the Republic, who appoints the Chancellor and his deputy.

The Chancellor endeavours to ensure that the courts of law, other authorities and civil servants, and other persons or bodies assigned to perform public tasks, comply with the law and fulfil their assigned obligations.

In the spring of 2020, the Office of the Chancellor of Justice received several complaints criticising how 2 ministries and the National Emergency Supply Agency were storing and procuring protective equipment at the start of the pandemic. 

He decided to examine these complaints and prepare report based on the laws, documents, and related reports in order to assess the effectiveness of these ministries and the National Emergency Supply Agency in storing and procuring protective equipment at the start of the pandemic. 

The Government had decided that the security of supply and storage of protective equipment was assigned to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health with the National Emergency Supply Agency, a body under the responsibility of another ministry, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy. 

This is just one area of emergency management that the government oversees. All vital functions of society are managed, supervised and coordinated by the Government and each ministry is responsible for their own areas of competence to ensure that the National Emergency Supply Agency can function correctly in emergencies.

Based on the Chancellor’s report, it is clear that when the pandemic struck, co-operation between the 2 ministries did not work effectively and that the division of responsibilities within the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health were not sufficiently clear. The report points out that it was not possible to prepare for a such a massive disruption like the  pandemic, nothing like that had been experienced in modern history. However, he states that the situation improved rather in terms of cooperation and the division of internal responsibilities. None of the reports conclusions were surprising – they have been endlessly discussed in the media, however it was useful that the report was made and that it is clearly reassuring in its message.

Finland has so far managed to achieve one of the best results in the management of the pandemic by the government and by the population at large. The absolute and relative numbers of deaths have been one of the lowest as is the negative economic impact so far. 

It is clear from observing peoples’ behaviour in public places that Finns have listened to the government’s warnings and taken them to heart. People volunteer for free testing and use the free COVID infection app, masks are being worn, physical distances have been maintained, working folk and students have been distance working without complaints and in a responsible manner, and crowds have largely been avoided. 

We are now seeing an increase in infection rates this last few weeks as the weather has got increasingly colder, but the government has again introduced new recommendations which are clearly being followed. 

Your correspondent is in the holiday home on an island with only weekly trips by boat to the nearest shops… The island is almost empty of others, and even the deers and foxes are avoiding us…

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