Finland's COVID-19 situation worsening rapidly, says PM

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EU leaders summit in Brussels

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland's COVID-19 situation has worsened rapidly in recent days, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Thursday, though she added that the government had decided it did not yet have the grounds to adopt emergency measures as it did in March.

Finland's 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants stood at 75.8 on Wednesday, Europe's second lowest level behind Iceland, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data showed, but the Finnish government warned the number of new cases was rising at a worrying pace again.

In the worst hit region around the capital Helsinki, the number of new cases rose by nearly 70% last week from the week before, the region's Chief Medical Officer Markku Makijarvi said.

"The coronavirus situation has worsened in Finland rapidly. The number of infections has increased and the amount of those in need of hospitalisation has risen," Marin told reporters.

"In my opinion, we should not rule out any measures," she added, referring to the possibility of resorting to a national state of emergency again.

On Thursday, the government recommended regional authorities temporarily close all high-risk public spaces in regions where case numbers were rising rapidly.

New cases are on the rise in around half of the country, with two regions out of 21 more severely affected, health authorities said.

The region around Helsinki will ban all public meetings both indoors and outdoors and send pupils and students of more than 15 years old home to remote learning, among other measures, local health authorities said.

(Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Alison Williams and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)