Report: Finland has coped relatively well with the pandemic, and yet, it will take years to remedy the consequences
So far, Finland has coped relatively well with the COVID-19 pandemic, having lower infection and mortality rates than many other European countries, and used relatively mild restrictive measures. Finnish democracy has also managed the crisis well. A key success factor has been confidence, which needs to be maintained and strengthened. These assessments are presented in a summative report which examines the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on society. The report was prepared through cooperation between the ministries that have played a key role in addressing the crisis.
According to the report, the crisis has not hit the Finnish economy in a way from which it as a whole could not recover relatively well. The report also states that employment has developed well. However, the State has incurred debt. Backlogs have been created in the provision of health and social services that will likely take years to dismantle. In particular, the waiting times for mental health services have become significantly longer and care relationships have been cut short. Although the majority of the population is likely to recover quite well from the crisis, the crisis has exacerbated the inequalities in wellbeing in a way that is unlikely to disappear when the crisis subsides. The situation has become more difficult for many of those in need of support, and new people have joined their numbers. However, the scale and scope of the phenomenon will become evident only later after the acute crisis has subsided. The crisis has imposed a burden on personnel in the service system and exacerbated labour shortages.
Looking ahead, it is necessary to prepare for new waves of the pandemic in 2022–2023. In the longer term, we must prepare for the possibility that the virus is here to stay and, in future, will be one pathogen among others. It will likely be subject to seasonal variation, causing a less severe form of the disease. However, it is still necessary to prepare for its treatment and proper prevention in wintertime. This would also probably require that catch-up vaccinations be offered to risk groups at least.
Recommendations for improving information flow and preventing increases in inequality
In its recommendations, the report draws attention to issues that require the Government either to act or to pay more attention than usual in order to correct the effects of the crisis. In this examination, it is essential to take into account how the effects of the crisis are linked to situations, tensions and trends that existed even before the COVID-19 pandemic and how they often amplify them.
The working group that prepared the report proposes that, after the acute phase of the crisis, a national dialogue will be held to compile experiences and create a common understanding of the crisis and its impacts on people’s lives and Finnish society. In this public debate, political leaders can play a significant role.
Attention must be paid to responding to information influence activities and protecting citizens from misinformation and disinformation at the level of the Government Programme. In the COVID-19 crisis, confidence has been found to correlate with vaccination coverage, for example. The working group also proposes that a communication channel and a mobile application be created for public authorities for the purposes of crisis communications and information sharing. It is also necessary to strengthen the Government’s ability and capacity to use rapidly updated information in all circumstances.
The report includes recommendations for assessing widely the effects and opportunities of remote work.
It is recommended that a rapporteur or a working group be appointed to consider options to address inequalities and that the next Government prepare systematically for the growing need for health and social services and other services that promote wellbeing. It is sensible that the digital services developed during the COVID-19 era are established and used in the dismantling of the backlog in services. We must adopt ways to promote mental health more widely than before. The working group also recommends that long-term research work will be launched to study the impact of the years 2020–2022 on the later lives of young adults, i.e. those born at the beginning of the millennium. The end of the report includes a few brief reviews from researchers.
Inquiries: Jouni Varanka, Ministerial Adviser, Prime Minister's Office, tel. +358 295 160 177