Finnish PM under fire for clubbing till 4am after Covid-19 exposure

Sanna Marin (above) was pictured partying until almost 4am, after Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto tested positive for coronavirus. PHOTO: AFP

HELSINKI (AFP) - Finland's prime minister came under sustained criticism on Tuesday (Dec 7) after it was revealed she stayed out dancing until the early hours at the weekend despite knowing she had been exposed to Covid-19.

Sanna Marin, 36, apologised on Monday after a gossip magazine published photos of her attending a Helsinki nightclub on Saturday night until almost four in the morning, hours after her Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto tested positive for coronavirus.

"My husband and I... had been out to eat, been shopping in town, seen friends and also spent time (enjoying) the evening and nightlife," the Social Democrat leader wrote on Facebook.

She added that she was told by an official that the coronavirus guidelines did not require her to isolate, despite having been in contact with an infected person.

"I should have used better judgment and double-checked the guidance given to me. I am very sorry for not understanding that I needed to do that," Marin wrote.

A poll commissioned by TV channel MTV3 found that two-thirds of respondents thought Marin's night out was a "serious mistake".

Opposition parties also slammed Marin for potentially breaking official Covid-19 guidelines and for missing a later text message warning her to isolate.

Finance Minister Annika Saarikko from the Centre Party, the ruling coalition partner, stopped short of criticising Marin directly.

However Saarikko told newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that she was "glad I was at home" when she received the text message to isolate, adding that she had cancelled her plans for the next day.

Finland has sustained some of Europe's lowest incidences of the virus throughout the pandemic, recording more than 196,000 cases and 1,384 deaths in the country of 5.5 million.

However infections are now at an all-time high, with 308 new cases per 100,000 population in the last fortnight. The country has also recorded eight cases of the new Omicron variant.

On Monday, magazine Seiska reported that Marin was seen in the Butchers nightclub in Helsinki, dancing with friends until nearly four.

Marin, who became the world's youngest prime minister when appointed in 2019, has previously been the target of criticism over parties at her official residence and social media posts in which she poses with friends or appears to promote fashion accessories.

In October she responded to critics with an Instagram post quoting a Finnish pop song that said: "Hey boom-boom-boomer, put some ice in your hat and cool it."

"I'm a representative of the younger generation," she later told broadcaster Yle, "and yes, that's reflected in the way I do my work and how I live," Marin said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.