Meatballs with tomato and flags.

Coronavirus situation affects 4th and 5th graders’ Independence Day celebrations

Since 1997, the City of Helsinki has been organising the Independence Day celebrations for 4th graders in the Finlandia Hall. The Mayor of Helsinki hosts the celebration, which brings together the entire age group of 10-year-olds. Unfortunately, like last year, the coronavirus situation will prevent thousands of children from celebrating together again this year. However, other arrangements have already been made to replace the celebration.

Until last year, the celebrations were staggered over three different events on the same day, attended by around 6,000 people. In 2020, it was decided to postpone the celebrations until spring 2021 due to the coronavirus situation, but the celebrations had to be postponed further to the autumn semester 2021. The plan was to have two celebrations in November and December, one for the current 4th graders and one for last year’s 4th graders, the current 5th graders. The total number of children in this group is around 12,000.

Despite the coronavirus situation, the city wants to offer every 4th and 5th grader the chance to have memorable moments of celebration.

School-specific Independence Day celebrations will take place in December 2021. Schools will organise a dance for 4th and 5th graders, which guardians will be able to attend as an audience. In addition to the dances, the programme will include refreshments and a pre-recorded greeting from Mayor Juhana Vartiainen and Deputy Mayor for Education Nasima Razmyar. Schools will receive their first detailed instructions for the celebrations in early November. The Helsinki Events Foundation is responsible for the overall planning of the celebrations.

Other celebration arrangements were also considered – the health risk posed by a gathering of unvaccinated children was the deciding factor

Children under the age of 12 have not been vaccinated and there are no plans yet to vaccinate this age group. According to the overall epidemiological assessment, the health risk of having thousands of unvaccinated children together is considered too high, which could also have an impact on the ability to keep pupils in contact teaching.

According to the assessment, the risks would also have been high if the celebration had been staggered over several groups and several days. In the case of children aged 10 and 11, organising rapid testing at the door was also not considered a realistic option.

The aim is that in the coming years, the whole age group will be able to celebrate together again in November and December. If this happens as early as 2022, the current 5th graders will be invited to join the celebrations, as they will be 6th graders, i.e. 12 years old, and will be eligible for vaccine coverage if they so wish.

Photo: Perttti Nisonen / City of Helsinki