The amendment of the Communicable Diseases Act has been confirmed, and it will enter into force on 22 February 2021. The amendment empowers local and regional authorities to perform proactive and fast measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The majority of the changes will be valid until 30 June 2021.
According to the Act, an authority may impose regional restrictions on enterprises and recreational activities whenever necessitated by the prevention of the epidemic’s spread. The obligations and restrictions are based on the avoidance of physical contact between people. The restaurants have been left out of the scope of this regulation, as they are affected by specific regulations and legislation. The new legislation does not concern for example personnel’s break facilities or offices, either.
The City of Helsinki urges private and public operators in its area to prepare for the new restrictions. Upon entering into force of the Act, the competent decision-making authority in the matter will be the Regional State Administrative Agency or the municipality in its respective area. The information presented herein is preliminary – the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will issue more detailed implementation policies and national guidelines.
Certain basic things must be up and running at all customer facilities immediately when the Act enters into force. This regulation comprehensively concerns all operators such as stores, gyms, hairdressers, the facilities of religious communities and recreational facilities.
The following must be arranged at all customer facilities:
- the possibility to clean one’s hands either by washing or with sanitizer
- sufficient hygiene instructions displayed at all customer facilities
- possible customer seats must be placed at sufficient distances from each other, and there must be generally be as much extra space for interaction as possible
- the cleaning of facilities and surfaces must be enhanced.
The aforementioned obligations do not require of a separate decision, but everybody must comply with these rules by the time the Act enters into force.
If the aforementioned measures prove insufficient, the municipality or Regional State Administrative Agency can, provided that the conditions of application are fulfilled, make a decision about requiring enterprises or other operators to take action in order to de facto prevent close contacts at the customer facilities and other spaces open to the participants of the activities.
The operator may fulfil its obligations by restricting the number of customers, by rearranging the customer seats or facilities or in another manner that considers the special characteristics of the operations. For the purposes herein, ‘close contact’ refers to physical contact, the face-to-face arrangement of persons or an arrangement in which people share the same space at distances of less than two metres for a period of over 15 minutes.
This regulation, however, does not concern indoor facilities at which the number of the activities’ participants does not exceed 10, or territorially limited outdoor facilities at which the maximum number of participants is 50.
The implementation of the decision in different companies and the public sector will be supervised by both the municipality and the Regional State Administrative Agency. If the decision is not implemented, the customer facilities can even be ordered to close.
Ultimately, if the epidemic situation worsens further, the strictest measure may find application, meaning that certain facilities are closed completely. Such a decision would be valid for two weeks at a time and would only concern specified operations. The closure decision could apply the following facilities:
- indoor facilities used for team and group sports, contact sports and similar sports or physical exercise, as well as gyms and other similar indoor sports facilities
- public saunas and swimming halls, outdoor swimming pools, pool facilities at spas and the dressing rooms in their immediate connection
- dance facilities and facilities used for choir singing, amateur theatre and other similar recreational group activities
- amusement and theme parks, fairs (circuses) and indoor facilities of zoos
- indoor playgrounds
- public lounges at shopping centres, with the exception of retail business premises, premises used for providing services and the access routes to these.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Regional State Administrative Agency and the municipalities will provide more detailed instructions and advice to the operators.
Photo: Kimmo Brandt