Finland to open restaurants, give more COVID-19 vaccine to heavily hit areas

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FILE PHOTO: Finland starts a three weeks long partial lockdown

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland on Friday said it would allow all restaurants to reopen next week after a steady fall in coronavirus infection rates over the past month.

Restrictions to opening hours, alcohol sales and the number of guests will apply, the government said.

In the region around the capital Helsinki and some other areas still battling the epidemic, restaurants will be allowed to take in half of their capacity, sell alcohol until 5 p.m. and need to close by 7 p.m..

The government on Friday also decided Finland will temporarily give more vaccinations to areas where the virus is spreading fastest such as in the capital region.

According to data from the Finnish health institute, 1.2 million Finns have now received at least one vaccination dose.

On Thursday the health minister said Finland is seeking to negotiate a possible deal to buy Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.

Despite high infections in March, Finland remains among the countries least affected by the pandemic. To date, the nation of 5.5 million people has recorded 83,253 cases, 558 deaths and has 161 people hospitalised due to COVID-19.

(Reporting by Essi Lehto; editing by Jason Neely)