Coronavirus coordination group safeguards matriculation examination preparations, maintains suspension of children's recreational activities

In a 14 January 2021 meeting, the Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group decided to maintain current restrictions on children’s recreational activities. In addition, the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa decided to give upper secondary school students preparing for matriculation exams the option of attending preparatory classes in person, as students at this level of instruction in the metropolitan area have been distance learning for a long time.

Contact teaching for students preparing for matriculation exams

Metropolitan area recommendations and restrictions pertaining to education will continue as is, with one exception. In order to ensure equal opportunity, the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa decided in their 14 January meeting that upper secondary school students preparing for matriculation exams will be given the option to attend preparatory classes in person between 18 January and the end of the third evaluation period. One reason for this is because practice on the Abitti system used in the matriculation exams can only take place at the educational institutions. Due to recent legislation that increased the significance of matriculation exam results on university selection, these kind of considerations for graduating students in terms of nationwide equity are particularly important.

The period will contain an evaluation week sometime between 28 January and 5 February 2021, with exact dates and duration dependent on the city or school. Upper secondary school students preparing for matriculation exams will be given the possibility to opt for contact teaching during this evaluation week as well.

Students preparing for their matriculation exams will not be required to attend classes in person, if they do not wish to do so. Instruction will be arranged in a hybrid fashion, with some students attending class in person and others participating via distance learning online.

A voluntary two-week quarantine is recommended for students planning to attend matriculation exams. Students with incomplete or missing coursework or an essential contact teaching need will switch to distance learning on 1 March at the latest, which will leave them with enough time to serve the required self-imposed quarantine before the exams' starting date of 16 March 2021.

In addition to other measures, the arrangement of safe contact teaching at upper secondary schools is guided by the following principles:

  • Compliance with general hygiene instructions
  • Face mask usage
  • Staggered meals, with consideration for safe distances and general hygiene instructions. Meals will be served at a different time for students in contact teaching, so as not to overlap with distance teaching students who come to the schools to eat their meals.
  • Utilisation of all premises, which makes it easier to observe safe distances
  • Staggered breaks, arrivals and leaving times according to instructions from the principal

Essential needs contact teaching will continue to be provided in upper secondary education so as to not jeopardise the studies and graduation of students needing individual support for various reasons.

A decision was also reached to adapt two upper secondary school celebrations that normally take place in the spring to the circumstances. The formal dance for second-year students (Vanhat) will be postponed until a later date, and the school-leaving student parade in lorries (penkkarit) will be transferred online.

The coronavirus coordination group is continuously monitoring the epidemic situation. If the situation changes, the group is ready to re-evaluate its policies swiftly.

Temporary suspension of recreational activities for minors continues

The Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group is aware of the negative effects of long-term closures of children’s and young people’s recreational activities on their well-being. The group nevertheless decided to maintain the current restrictions and recommendations on these activities until further notice to maintain public safety. The situation is being actively monitored, and the restrictions and recommendations will be re-evaluated if the epidemic situation changes.

Restrictions and recommendations issued by the coronavirus coordination group on 26 November 2020 will remain valid until 31 January 2021

Leisure activities

All municipally-organised leisure activities (including basic art education) held indoors have been temporarily suspended. All leisure activities for people over 20 years old held outdoors have also been cancelled.

Outdoors sports reservations for people over 20 years old are likewise cancelled. Outdoors sports for people under 20 years old will continue based on earlier bookings, but competitions, games or series will not be held. No new reservations will be accepted. 

The municipalities’ outdoor sports facilities are available for local residents to use when children’s and young people’s activities are not being held there. Supervision and the presence of youth instructors have been increased in these outdoor areas. Changing rooms and maintenance buildings will remain closed.

School sports will be arranged outdoors and at school facilities, but not at other sports facilities.

The practice and competition opportunities for competitive and professional sports have been secured for professional sports based on a series licence agreement or sports agreement, as defined by the Ministry of Education and Culture. This includes national teams, athletes supported by the Olympic Committee and athletes receiving a grant from the Ministry of Education and Culture in collaboration with the Metropolitan Area Sports Academy.

The coronavirus coordination group continues to encourage private operators to comply with these same restrictions.

These restrictions are in effect from 30 November 2020 to 31 January 2021.

Organising public events

All public events and meetings held indoors or outdoors have been prohibited for a limited time. However, organising public events and meetings of a maximum of 10 participants will be allowed, provided that safety can be ensured based on the instructions given by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare on 21 September 2020. Events with at most 10 persons should be limited to an indispensable minimum, such as statutory shareholders’ meetings and association meetings. Remote connections must be used also in these cases whenever possible.

This restriction is valid 11-31 January 2021. The decision to extend this restriction in the area was made on 5 January 2021 by the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland.

Organising private events

The coordination group continues to recommend that close contacts be limited to members of the same household or those considered as close as household members. Other kinds of private gatherings or meetings with extended family are not recommended. Guests at a funeral or memorial service should still be restricted to only a small group of close relatives.

This recommendation is valid from 30 November 2020 to 31 January 2021.

Public premises

All customer spaces open to the public will remain closed. This includes all municipal indoor sports facilities, cultural centres, museums and youth facilities. The operations of adult education centres have been suspended. Korkeasaari Zoo is also closed.

The facilities used for providing health care and social services, early childhood education, comprehensive education and essential upper secondary education will remain open. Services such as the essential use of customer computers in libraries and the distribution of face masks to those in need will continue. The cities have defined the facilities offering essential services, which will be kept open to a limited extent and with due consideration to health and safety.

The coordination group continues to recommend that private operators close similar sports and leisure facilities.

Libraries will continue to offer limited services, which include:

  •  Picking up materials from the reservations shelves and select themed shelves by the self-service machines.
  • Essential and quick use of the customer computers.
  • The primary service methods are advance reservations and self-service via the machines.
  • If necessary, assistance and guidance will be provided at the service desk.
  • Wearing a mask is obligatory when using the services, unless health-related reasons prevent it.

These restrictions will remain in effect from 30 November 2020 to 31 January 2021.

Upper secondary education

Secondary education (upper secondary schools and vocational education institutions) will continue with distance learning arrangements. Essential contact teaching needs will be met. For example, contact teaching will be provided to students with disabilities that are receiving special needs education and to students who need individual support for various reasons.

Distance learning began at the start of the new evaluation period on 3 December 2020, and will continue until 31 January 2021.

Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group prepares and coordinates local decision-making

The cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS), and the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland established the Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group on 10 September 2020. In line with a regional operating model devised by Finland’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the group aims to strengthen the formation of a common situational assessment and to coordinate and prepare local and regional measures.

The group consists of top management from each member organisation and is responsible for the preparation and coordination of decision-making based on a shared assessment of the situation. Each member makes decisions independently, within its own sphere of authority. The group further intensifies the close metropolitan area collaboration that has continued throughout the coronavirus crisis.

The City of Helsinki is responsible for organising the group’s operations.