After hearing rumors about Helsinki moving to the spreading phase in the coronavirus pandemic, we decided to take a spin in the city center on Wednesday morning to observe the streets that should be busy.
To our surprise, only a few mask-wearing people were lingering along one of the main streets, under the Christmas lights that seemed to have been turned on too early. A lonely man was snapping selfies at the deserted Senate Square, which typically swarmed with tourists even in the late autumn or early winter.
Most people were found on one of the side streets enveloped between 19th-century government buildings. They were climate activists who sat on the wet blacktop under a calm, warm wind that the meteorologists had described as “exceptional.”
The cafeterias seemed empty. Many shops were closed. Some permanently.
The following day, on Thursday, November 19, the mayors of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa—three major cities in the capital region—declared that the coronavirus, indeed, was spreading rapidly and more restrictions were to follow.