Bulletin by the Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group, 20 April 2021
In its meeting on Tuesday, 20 April 2021, the Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group outlined a controlled return to contact teaching and the opening of indoor hobby opportunities for persons aged 20 and younger. The decision is in line with the ‘children and young people first’ principle to which the region is committed as regards the lifting of restrictions.
The coronavirus coordination group recommends that the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland make a decision pursuant to temporary section 58(d) of the Communicable Diseases Act to enable the practicable avoidance of close contact in customer premises until 16 May 2021. Furthermore, the coronavirus coordination group recommends that the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland make a decision on continuing to prohibit public events and general meetings of more than six people indoors and in enclosed outdoor areas until 16 May 2021.
The coronavirus coordination group decided that comprehensive school grades 7–10 and secondary education are to make a full transition to contact teaching as of 3 May 2021. Education is currently arranged using a rotation model.
The coronavirus coordination group also stated that guided recreational activities for persons aged 20 and younger will be enabled to a limited extent in indoor facilities starting from 3 May 2021, if the decision issued by the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland on the closure of such premises under temporary section 58(g) of the Communicable Diseases Act is no longer in effect at that time. The opening of the recreational activities will require a health security plan to be submitted to the City, among other measures. The plan must, among other things, describe how close contact will be avoided in the context of the activities and how group sizes will be proportioned to the space available for the activities.
In addition to this, the coronavirus coordination group decided to make swimming halls available to those with a special swimming card as of 3 May 2021, if the decision pursuant to temporary section 58(g) of the Communicable Diseases Act is no longer in effect in the region at that time.
Moreover, the coronavirus coordination group stated that last week’s decision on recreational activities will be supplemented as follows: Guided recreational activities in outdoor areas and facilities will be made available to a limited extent for persons aged 20 and younger. Activities other than those involving sports will also be made possible. However, in accordance with temporary section 58(g) of the Communicable Diseases Act, choir singing, amateur theatre activities and similar group hobbies will remain prohibited until 28 April even in outdoor areas and facilities. Youth work activities will be permitted outside in limited groups.
The coordination group will continue to prepare its plan for the lifting of restrictions in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and will make the necessary decisions at its subsequent meetings. A precondition is that the epidemic situation in the region continues to develop well.
The Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland will release further information on its pending decisions.
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 provide teaching using a rotation model in accordance with municipality-specific implementation measures until 2 May 2021. 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.
Grades 7–10 of comprehensive school will make a full transition to contact teaching as of 3 May 2021.
Upper secondary schools and vocational institutions will continue with the rotation model until 2 May 2021, after which they will fully transition to contact teaching starting from 3 May 2021.
All educational institutions must adhere to health security plans that minimise close contact and stagger access to their premises.
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 are regarded as parts of private and family life.
The restriction will be valid until 28 April 2021. Decisions on the extension of the restriction will be 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. Decisions on the extension of the restriction will be 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 organised, and even in these cases, remote connections should be used whenever possible.
These restrictions will remain in effect until 30 April 2021. Decisions on the extension of the restriction will be 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 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 outdoor premises of the cities can be used for guided recreational activities of persons aged 20 or less.
Guided recreational activities for persons aged 20 and younger can be arranged to a limited extent in indoor facilities managed by the Cities starting from 3 May 2021, if the decision issued under temporary section 58(g) of the Communicable Diseases Act is no longer in effect at that time.
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 in 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 the age of 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.