The first confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) case in Finland was reported on January 29, 2020. The COVID-19 infection was detected in Lapland, Northern Finland, where a Chinese tourist from Wuhan tested positive for the virus. However, after January, it took well over a month before the epidemic started to spread in the country. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Finnish government declared a state of emergency in mid-March, imposing social distancing measures together with passenger travel restrictions. Towards the end of March, the number of new COVID-19 cases picked up and peaked on April 6, when 207 new cases were registered in a single day. The numbers decreased in the months that followed, but increased again since September, with higher numbers of new daily cases recorded. Most of the COVID-19 cases have been discovered around Helsinki, although smaller regional outbreaks have been detected as well. The first death caused by COVID-19 in Finland was reported on March 20, 2020, and the number of deaths has since increased to roughly one thousand.
According to economic forecasts, Finland’s export-driven economy weakened significantly in 2020. The Finnish GDP fell by 2.8 percent, and growth will likely remain slow in the following years even if the economy recovers relatively quickly. So far, many companies have tried to overcome the acute crisis by laying off their employees. Around 27 percent of Finnish companies estimated that they were facing a higher risk of insolvency as of May 2020, but the COVID-19 impact on bankruptcies has not been noticeable yet. The service sector, in particular travel, tourism, culture, and food services, have hardly been hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. Based on consumer spending data, Finns used almost 90 percent less money on culture and hotels in May 2020.
COVID-19 has not only changed consumer behavior, but also significantly increased the time people spend at home. Based on survey results, Finns made the quickest shift to teleworking in Europe, and even 75 percent of employees switched to home office entirely. In a 2021 survey, the majority of people said that they would also like to continue working from home after the pandemic. Regarding other measures against the coronavirus pandemic, mandatory face masks in public have remained somewhat unpopular among Finns, as most people prefer freedom of choice in wearing them. However, mask wearing has become more common Finland after the national authorities announced a recommendation that face masks should be used in situations where close contact cannot be avoided.