Finland's military intends to hold spring exercises despite the raging coronavirus pandemic, which earlier this year led to the cancellation of Cold Response, a major series of NATO drills, in neighbouring Norway.
So far, only individual national exercises have been called off, according to Lieutenant Commander Tuomas Syvänen of the Armed Forces' General Headquarters.
This spring, the Finnish Defence Forces are planning about 10 different exercises involving up to 18,000 conscripts, national broadcaster Yle reported. However, not all of the drills will take place at the same time or at the same place.
Syvänen justified the intention to go ahead with the exercises by referencing a government decision taken in mid-March, according to which the Armed Forces, the largest in Northern Europe with an active personnel of 25,000 conscripts, are required to ensure their continuity and readiness in all situations.
The headquarters spokesperson said that emergency measures and restrictions on public gatherings aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus do not apply to Defence Force activities.
However, refresher training exercises have been suspended until the end of April.
According to Syvänen, the military will be paying close attention to preventing the spread of the virus during the exercises. The organisation is closely following the development and may still make changes in the scheme of the planned drills.
Earlier this week, Finland's government extended existing emergency measures, which include closed borders, social distancing and homeschooling, until 13 May.
So far, Finland appears to be the least affected by the coronavirus epidemic of all the Nordic nations.
As of 1 April, Finland recorded 1,446 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Finland with no new death cases in the past 24 hours. In total, 17 patients have succumbed to the disease. The majority of cases, and fatalities, are concentrated in Helsinki and Uusimaa region, which have been cordoned off.