The Helsinki Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group.

Helsinki Metropolitan Area declares community transmission phase, introduces tighter recommendations and restrictions

On 19 November, the Helsinki Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group decided that the covid-19 situation in the capital city area warranted a transfer from the acceleration to the community transmission phase, although it does not meet all of the government-defined criteria. The group has issued a series of heightened recommendations and restrictions to stop the spread of the virus. Priority decisions respond to the threat the epidemic poses, while temporary recommendations and restrictions will be extended if necessary.

The coronavirus epidemic in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area has increased alarmingly in the last few days. The situation elsewhere in Europe also sends a cautionary message. In response, the Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group has prepared a new series of recommendation and restrictions that can be implemented quickly. This preparation has relied on epidemiological data and an overall assessment of the situation.

Covid-19 infections have of late spread via close social contact in homes, private parties and events, workplaces and leisure activities. Daycares and schools have accounted for more cases of exposure, but fewer cases of infection. Because only about half of the recent infections can be traced back to a source, it has become necessary to restrict social contact in the area more broadly, in addition to targeted measures.

Three-week suspension of amateur sports

Starting on Monday, 23 November, all city-run indoor team sports and contact sport activities for people over the age of 20 will be temporarily suspended for three weeks. Amateur-level matches, competitions and regional play-offs will also be cancelled during this time. Private operators are asked to observe these same restrictions. It is also recommended that all leisure clubs for adults in the metropolitan area limit their activities to things that take place within their own groups.

The cities will send the relevant organisations detailed instructions and will cancel their reserved practice times for the duration of the suspension.

The new restrictions will not apply to individual and group sport competitions on the national team, national and Division I levels, nor to professional athletes training for international competitions. It will also not apply to groups in which participants are able to maintain safe distances from others during activities.

Public events limited to 20

The capital area cities, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) have determined that public events arranged indoors should be limited to 20 participants for the next three weeks, starting on 23 November. The Regional State Administrative Agency of Southern Finland will make the final decision on this matter.

Private events limited to 10

The coronavirus coordination group continues its recommendation from 13 November 2020 to exercise discretion and restraint in the organisation of private events. It recommends that private events be limited to a maximum of 10 people for the time being. The recommendation applies to upcoming graduation parties, family gatherings and holiday events.

Limits on swimming hall and library patrons

In addition to earlier restrictions on the use of public spaces, the number of customers at swimming halls will be capped at 50 per cent of capacity, meaning that half of the changing room lockers will be made off-limits. Places in public library study halls will also be reduced for the time being, starting on 23 November.

Staggered instruction at upper secondary schools

There will also be an increase in the use of staggered distance learning intervals at upper secondary schools (grades 10-12) in the metropolitan area for the time being.

Face mask recommendation for all on-site workers

The coordination group also recommends that everyone who is not working remotely use face masks at work in all of their encounters with others and when moving about their workplace. This recommendation applies to jobs in both the public and private sector. 

Daycare centre staff are encouraged to wear masks indoors whenever possible. Early childhood education employees who travel to several locations in their work, for example, daycare assistants, replacements, directors, trainees and interns are in particular asked to observe this mask recommendation.

A mask recommendation has also been issued for the area’s lower secondary schools (grades 7-9). The cities will provide masks for this purpose, but students are also free to use their own.

These recommendations will enter into force on Monday, 23 November 2020. Municipalities in the capital city area will provide the necessary masks for their employees, which will be delivered to workplaces as soon as possible. Employees are also free to use their own face coverings. People with health issues that prohibit them from wearing a mask are exempt from this recommendation.

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

The cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, the National Institute of Health and Welfare (THL), the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS), and the Regional State Administrative Agency of 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.

Additional information

Photo: Heikki Nummi