At its meeting on Thursday, April 15 2021, the metropolitan area’s coronavirus coordination group discussed the government's plan to lift coronavirus restrictions, as well as the lifting of existing restrictions in its area. The coordination group considers it important that the opening-up phase does not focus solely on removing restrictions, but on securing the conditions for the return of services In addition, the well-being of the most vulnerable groups should also be taken care of. The coronavirus coordination group considers it a priority to start lifting restrictions regarding children and youth.
The coordination group outlined that guided outdoor sports activities for people aged 20 and under can be opened on Monday, April 19 2021. The action must be carried out on the basis of the health safety guidelines already in use. The opening applies to all other fields (including artificial turf, athletics fields, baseball fields), except natural grass, which will be opened when the field grass is in such a condition that it is sustainable for use.
The coordination group considers it essential that the lifting of restrictions be carried out in a controlled manner and that it is attached to a genuine overall assessment of the epidemic situation. As vaccination coverage increases, more important indicators for lifting restrictions than the incidence of infections are the carrying capacity of social and health care, such as the need and prognosis of hospital and intensive care, and the ability of infection tracking and other services, as well as mortality. The carrying capacity of health care has also been considered to be a critical measure when tightening restrictions.
On the basis of these principles, the coordination group will continue to prepare its own plan for the lifting of restrictions in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and will make the necessary guidelines at its meeting next week. A precondition is that the epidemic situation in the region continues to develop well.
The cities of the metropolitan area outlined that, at this stage, there is no need to expand the use of face masks to lower school levels. The coordination group took note of the recommendation and instruction of the HUS-led regional coordination group expert working group on the use of face masks for primary school students.
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
From 12 April 2021, upper comprehensive schools have transitioned to a rotation model in accordance with municipality-specific implementation measures. The decision also applies to students in grade 10.
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.
Upper secondary schools will continue with remote education until the end of the fourth quarter, following which they will transition to a rotation model, in which half of the upper secondary students shall attend contact teaching at any one time. The fact that matriculation examination candidates have already completed their studies has been taken into account.
Vocational institutions will continue the remote education for just as long as the upper secondary schools. After this, vocational education will transition to a rotation modelwherein one third of the students of the learning community shall be in contact teaching at any one time.
The group sizes will be adjusted in order to maintain safe distances.
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.
Otherwise, the premises designated for closure may be used for the supervised recreational activities of children born in 2008 and later, as well as for the implementation of statutory services. 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 28 April 2021. The decision was made by the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland.
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 30 April 2021. The decision was made by the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland.
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. For events of up to six people, only those that are absolutely necessary should be organized, and even in these cases, remote connections should be used whenever possible.
These restrictions will remain in effect until 30 April 2021. The decision was made 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 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 April 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.
indoor premises of the cities can only be used for guided recreational activities of children born in 2008 or later.
The outdoor premises of the cities can only be used for guided recreational activities of children aged 20 or less, starting on 19.4.2021.
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.
Photo: Marja Väänänen