At the coronavirus coordination group meeting held on 30 March 2021, the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa decided to incrementally return to contact teaching a week after Easter. The policy is based on an overall assessment of the epidemic situation and the negative impacts of prolonged remote teaching on learning, welfare and health. The policies are also based on the expected improvement of the infection situation in the area.
Upper comprehensive schools and secondary education will continue in distance learning mode in their entirety for one week after Easter.
Upper comprehensive schools will continue with the remote arrangements until 11 April 2021. On week 15, starting from 12 April 2021, upper comprehensive schools will transition to a hybrid model in accordance with municipality-specific implementation measures. In this context, hybrid model means that the different grades will alternate in remote and classroom education. Every city has its own alternating schedule according to which the education is implemented.
Upper secondary schools will continue with remote education until the end of the fourth quarter (roughly mid-April), following which they will transition to a hybrid model. This involves half of the upper secondary students attending contact teaching at any one time. The fact that matriculation examination candidates have already completed their studies has been taken into account. The group sizes will be adjusted in order to maintain safe distances.
Vocational institutions will continue the remote education as long as the upper secondary schools. After this, vocational education will transition to a hybrid model wherein one third of the students of the learning community are in contact teaching at any one time. The group sizes will be adjusted in order to maintain safe distances.
The policies regarding education arrangements are based on the recent decreases in the occurrence of new cases and the anticipated continuation of this trend. Should the situation in the area deteriorate, the transition to the hybrid model may be cancelled in the coordination group meeting in week 14.
It is the recommendation of the coronavirus coordination group for the Helsinki Metropolitan Area that the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland extend the application of temporary section 58(g) of the Communicable Diseases Act for two weeks until 14 April 2021, however, with the exception that any private or public premises designated for closure may still be used for guided recreational activities aimed at children born in 2008 and later. The intention is that the closure will not affect professional sports. Furthermore, the availability of statutory activities will be ensured.
The coronavirus coordination group also recommends that the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland make a decision on the continued implementation of temporary section 58(d) of the Communicable Diseases Act in the area until 30 April 2021.
The Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland will release further information on its pending decisions on 30 and 31 March 2021.
Earlier restrictions and recommendations by the coronavirus coordination group that will mostly be valid until the end of April
The restrictions and recommendations of the coronavirus coordination group will mostly be valid until 30 April 2021. The decision was made based on the prevalent epidemiological situation and overall assessment. In addition to the Cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, the City of Kauniainen will also adhere to the restrictions and recommendations of the coordination group.
Education in upper comprehensive schools
Upper comprehensive schools will continue with the remote arrangements until 11 April 2021. As of week 15, starting from 12 April 2021, the upper comprehensive schools will transition to a hybrid model in accordance with the municipality-specific implementation methods. The decision also applies to students in the 10th grade.
Indispensable needs for contact teaching will continue to be met. For example, the following must be secured: special-needs education, extended compulsory and preparatory education as well as other essential contact teaching.
Regarding basic education in grades 7–10, the Regional State Administrative Agency will make the decision on the closure of the schools’ premises, while the cities will decide on the adoption of exceptional teaching arrangements.
Upper secondary schools will continue with remote education until the end of the fourth period (roughly 15 April 2021), after which they will transition to a hybrid model, which involves contact teaching for half of the secondary school students.
Vocational institutions will continue the remote education as long as the upper secondary schools. After this, vocational education will transition to a hybrid model wherein one third of the students of the learning community are in contact teaching at any one time.
Closure of public and private premises
The Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland has ordered a variety of facilities to be closed in the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa in accordance with temporary Section 58(g) of the Communicable Diseases Act. The closure decision applies widely to the following types of facilities and premises of public and private sector operators:
- 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 playparks and similar premises
- public lounges at shopping centres, with the exception of retail business premises, premises used for providing services and the access routes to these.
However, indoor facilities may be used if the number of concurrent customers or participants does not exceed ten. For outdoor facilities, the limit is 50 customers. Operators that do not restrict the maximum occupant numbers to match the limits listed above will have to close their facilities. The new obligations specified in the Communicable Diseases Act with regard to health secure arrangements and the guidance of customers must be taken into account when using any of the facilities in question. Facilities where health security cannot be ensured may not be used.
Furthermore, premises designated for closure may still be used for guided leisure activities aimed at children born in 2008 and later. The closure decision does not apply to professional sports or activities that regarded as parts of private and family life.
The restriction will be valid until 11 April 2021. The Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland is preparing new restrictions based on the Communicable Diseases Act as of 1 April. The agency will provide more detailed information on the proceedings on 30 and 31 March 2021.
Enabling actual distancing at public premises, temporary section 58(d) of Communicable Diseases Act
Private and public operators are obliged to arrange the use of premises that are open to the public or intended for a limited group of customers or participants in such a way that the customers, activity participants and groups can feasibly avoid close contact. The decision applies to a wide range of private and public customer premises, with the exclusion of restaurants. If it is impossible to avoid contact, the customer premises can be completely closed by decision of the Regional State Administrative Agency or the municipality.
The restriction will be valid until 14 April 2021. The Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland is preparing new restrictions based on amendments to the Communicable Diseases Act. The agency will provide information on the proceedings at a later later time on 30 and 31 March 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 six 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 six persons should be limited to the indispensable minimum, such as statutory shareholders’ meetings and association meetings. Remote connections must be used also in these cases whenever possible.
These restrictions will remain in effect until 14 April 2021. The decision on the restriction was made by the Regional State Administrative Agency of 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 under any circumstances. Guests at a funeral or memorial service should still be restricted to only a small group of close relatives.
The recommendation will be valid until 30 April 2021.
All public customer spaces will remain closed throughout May with the exception of the guided recreational activity time slots reserved for children born in 2008 or later. This includes all municipal cultural centres, museums and youth facilities. Contact teaching at the adult education centres has been suspended in favour of distance learning in November.
The facilities used for providing health care and social services, early childhood education, comprehensive education and essential 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. Libraries will continue to offer limited services.
The coordination group continues to recommend that private operators similarly restrict the use of sports and leisure facilities.
The restrictions and recommendations will be valid until 30 April 2021.
The indoor and outdoor premises of the cities can only be used for guided recreational activities of children born in 2008 or later. All forms of activities for children and young people must be implemented without close contacts.
The restriction will be valid until 30 April 2021.
The coordination group still recommends employers to arrange all tasks remotely wherever possible, even temporarily. If remote work is impossible, the employer is recommended to instruct the employees to use face masks at all workspaces, even where it is possible to maintain safe distances. Workplace meals and coffee breaks must be staggered.
The recommendation will be valid until 30 April 2021.
Face mask usage
Face mask usage is recommended for all persons above 12 in all indoor spaces outside their home.
The recommendation will remain valid until further notice.
The Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group prepares local decision-making
The Cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa, 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.
In addition to the Cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, the City of Kauniainen will also adhere to the restrictions and recommendations of the coordination group.
Coronavirus updates from Helsinki
Photo: Olli Turunen