The II international online session of the "Barents Euro-Arctic Region Against Coronavirus" was held at the initiative of Andrey Chibis, the governor of the Murmansk Region. The situation regarding the spread of the coronavirus, key features of fighting the pandemic, as well as measures to reduce the pandemic's economic and social impacts in the macroregion were the key topics on the agenda.
"Our initiative to analyse the situation in the Barents Euro-Arctic region is actively developing. We are monitoring what is happening in the world and in the neighbouring regions. Following the first session, there was interaction between responsible colleagues, which made it possible to analyse our colleagues' experience and actions. This is important for us, given the similar climatic and socio-economic conditions", Chibis said when opening the conference.
Speaking about the situation in the Murmansk Region, Chibis pointed out that the regional authorities had managed to slow down the growth rates, while the key task was not to damage the economy. According to him, small and medium-sized businesses and tourism have suffered most from the pandemic. A package of unprecedented support measures has been developed for them.
"The struggle for jobs became an important issue; many ended up unemployed. We introduced temporary relief employment, where the municipal authorities provided a flexible work schedule to those involved. More than 8,000 people took advantage of that flexible schedule", he said.
Elisabeth Vik Aspaker, the governor of Norway's Troms og Finnmark, said that in Norway the number of infected had started growing again after a summer lull. Before the summer, there was a lockdown period, strict rules were introduced, then restrictions were replaced with recommendations. Local outbreaks are being controlled by local measures.
Pauli Harju, the governor of Finland's North Ostrobothnia, noted that the pandemic had triggered a significant increase in the number of unemployed.
"Before the pandemic, the unemployment level was about 10%, then it rose to 18%, now it's at 13-15%; most of the measures are taken at the national level. Helsinki and Lapland are facing the most challenging situation", Harju said.
Lars Lustig, the deputy governor of the Swedish province of Västerbotten, also reported an increase in the unemployment rate. "It's more than 10% now. Support measures have been introduced, but it will be at least 2023 by the time we manage to fully recover", he said.