In a 27 January 2021 meeting, the Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group determined that the recommendations and restrictions currently in use in the capital region would continue unchanged for the most part until the end of February 2021. The extension aims to prevent the spread of covid-19 and its new variants, and lower the risk of overburdening social and healthcare services. After the new end date, the group will extend the temporary recommendations and restrictions further, if deemed necessary.
The coordination group recognises that the epidemic has put many children and young people in a vulnerable position and their general welfare must be a consideration. Long-term closures of leisure activities and hobbies have negative consequences on the well-being of this age group, and the adverse effects of the lengthy suspension have already been detected. This is why the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa have decided to re-open leisure activities for children and young people on a limited basis. In addition, municipal youth services activities that take place outdoors will resume, but group sizes will be limited to a maximum of 10 participants. In its meeting next week, the coronavirus coordination group will consider the status of distance learning among students in upper secondary education.
The coronavirus coordination group is continuously monitoring the epidemic situation. If the situation changes, the group is ready to re-evaluate its policies swiftly.
Limited leisure activities for under-20 year olds
The cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa decided that starting 1 February 2021, leisure activities for people under 20 could resume in their municipal facilities on a limited basis, if the participants observe special safety guidelines.
In this context, leisure activities mean all guided individual and group hobbies and activities that meet on a repeated basis. In order to resume, however, these activities must observe the safety guidelines issued by the authorities. If a breach occurs in the observance of these guidelines, the facility booking may be cancelled and the activity may be suspended.
All matches, competitions, tournaments and performances will remain off-limits. Workshops, one-session courses, and school and daycare group visits to leisure activity facilities are also banned for the time being. Physical education classes at schools will continue to be held outdoors and at the school premises, not in other sports halls or facilities. The practice and competitions of competitive sport teams and top athletes will be safeguarded, in accordance with earlier decisions in this area.
Leisure activities for under-20 year olds must comply with the following principles:
- The number of participants in the group must be regulated and based on pre-registration. Facilities will only be opened for times that have already been booked. The facilities will not be open for public use.
- All activities must observe the safety guidelines that have been issued by the authorities – and in the case of sports, those issued by the Olympic Committee – on social distancing, hand hygiene, and the use of face masks.
- Coaches and participants over 12 years of age must wear masks, unless a health reason prevents their use. Masks must be worn at all times, not just during practice.
- The activities should arranged in a way that avoids or considerably reduces close contact.
- Group sizes should be scaled down to ensure that the participants are able to maintain a safe distance from others. Several groups can be active at the same time in spaces that are large enough, as long as contact between the groups is prohibited.
- The organiser of the activity is responsible for determining the proper group sizes and ensuring that all other safety guidelines are observed.
- The use of changing and washing rooms should be limited to essential use only.
- People who are dropping off and picking up activity participants – parents or guardians, for example – may not enter the facilities. Exceptions can be made in some cases for children who are under school age.
The cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa continue to strongly encourage private operators to observe these same recommendations and restrictions in their arrangement of leisure activities for minors.
Youth services in small groups
On 27 January, the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa also decided that youth work that takes place outdoors can be once again be arranged for a maximum of 10 people at a time. Small group activities of this kind will give youth counsellors the opportunity and means they need to meet the needs of young people during this anxious time and prevent youth marginalisation. This activity will be targeted at those young people whose welfare is a concern. Youth services are most effective when functional work methods can be used alongside discussions. These youth services will keep their focus on individual neighbourhoods, and not seek to gather groups together from several areas. The idea is to offer fun activities to young people who are already congregating.
Current recommendations and restrictions to continue
A decision was made to extend the current recommendations and restrictions made by the coronavirus coordination group on 26 November 2020 until 28 February 2021. These include recommendations and restrictions on public and private events and upper secondary education instruction. This latest decision was made based on the prevalent epidemiological situation and an overall situational 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.
Organising public events
All public events and meetings held indoors or outdoors have been temporarily prohibited, although those with a maximum of 10 participants will be allowed if participant 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. These 10-person-maximum events and meetings should however be absolutely necessary, for example, statutory meetings of housing companies and associations. Even at these meetings, remote connections should be used whenever possible.
These restrictions will be in effect until 28 February 2021. The decision to extend these restrictions was made by the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland.
Organising private events
The coordination group continues to recommend that close contacts be restricted to members of the same household or those considered as close as household members. The organisation of other private meetings or family gatherings is not recommended. Guests at funerals or memorial services should be limited to a very small group of closest relatives.
This recommendation is valid until 28 February 2021.
All customer spaces open to the public will remain closed, with the exception of the children and young people’ activities listed above. This includes all municipal cultural centres, museums and youth facilities. The operations of adult education centres will continue to be suspended. Korkeasaari Zoo will stay closed.
The facilities used for providing health care and social services, early childhood education, comprehensive education and essential upper 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 on a limited basis and with due consideration for health and safety.
The coordination group continues to strongly recommend that private operators adopt the same recommendations and restrictions at their sports and leisure facilities.
Libraries will continue to offer limited services, which include:
- Picking up materials from the reservation shelves and select themed shelves by the self-service machines
- Essential and quick use of customer computers
- Service primarily relies on advance reservations and the use of the self-service machines
- If necessary, assistance and guidance will be provided at the service desk.
- Wearing a mask is obligatory when using libraries, unless health-related reasons prohibit it
These restrictions will remain in effect until 28 February 2021.
Upper secondary education
General upper secondary schools will continue to arrange their instruction as distance learning from 1 February 2021 to the end of the third evaluation period. The onset of the fourth evaluation period differs from school to school, falling sometime between 10 February and 15 February this year.
Distance learning will continue in vocational education from 1 February to 28 February 2021. During this time, students will be provided with opportunities to complete degrees and qualifications in part or in whole in different learning environments, as required (online, on-site and at the workplace).
These learning institutions will still provide face-to-face instruction that is deemed essential. For example, contact teaching will be provided to students with disabilities that are receiving special needs education and to students who need individual support for various reasons.
The need to continue distance learning will be discussed by the coordination group during week 5.
Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group prepares and coordinates local decision-making
The cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS), 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.