In the spring of 2020, Mayor Jan Vapaavuori commissioned an external analysis on the City of Helsinki’s decision-making and operations in managing the first wave of the coronavirus crisis. Another analysis was conducted this spring on the management of the second wave. The City has successfully increased the efficiency of its crisis organisation by clarifying preparation responsibilities, improving resourcing and streamlining coordination. The decision-making capability of the crisis organisation increased despite information flow from the central government not improving in any significant way.
In Finland, the first wave of the epidemic subsided by the summer of 2020, but infection numbers began to surge again in the autumn as new virus variants appeared. The highest infection numbers for the entire epidemic period were recorded in 2021, and cases were still heavily focused in the Uusimaa region, especially the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.
The analysis has highlighted key challenges related to the management of the crisis, identified good practices and presented suggestions. Further measures are being planned based on the results to improve the continuing epidemic situation and the management of possible future emergencies. For residents and other interested parties, the analysis also increases the transparency of the City administration’s operations in handling a prolonged crisis.
Lessons learned in the spring of 2020 as a foundation for crisis management
According to the analysis, the City of Helsinki has succeeded in increasing the efficiency of its crisis organisation in areas where challenges were identified during the first wave of the epidemic. Compared to the previous analysis period of spring 2020, the operations of the coordination group have become more efficient thanks to improved specification of responsibilities and roles related to decision preparation, clarified distribution of duties between the coordination group and City divisions, and development of crisis management methods and routines based on experience. The most significant change that has impacted the efficiency of the City’s coronavirus coordination group has been the clarification of responsibilities linked to preparing decisions, related resourcing and more efficient coordination.
The analysis shows that various measures have improved the City’s decision-making capability as the crisis has progressed. However, the most important factor to undermine the capability has been a lack of dialogue between the central government and municipal sector in the preparation of national policies and decisions.
Regional co-operation and communications are key
The City of Helsinki has also successfully increased dialogue between the cities in the Metropolitan Area and other important operators, which has had a significant impact on the implementation of unified policies in the region. Helsinki has the main responsibility for organising the Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group, which was established in September 2020. The group has worked to create a unified situational picture and produce information on the impacts and consequences of various measures. In addition to Helsinki, the group includes the cities of 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.
The City’s internal and external communications have maintained a good level and developed during the crisis. The aim has been to maintain a clear, consistent and understandable approach in communications. The Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group has also contributed to increasing the efficacy of the City’s communications.
Background information on the analysis
The analysis was conducted by KPMG Oy, which provides management consulting services, among other things. The goal was to produce quickly-usable information on the activities and measures of the City’s crisis organisation in managing the second wave of the coronavirus crisis. The analysis examined the period August 2020–April 2021.
The focuses of the analysis were the functionality and general organisation of the City of Helsinki’s crisis management model, creation of the situational picture required by crisis management, decision-making capability and processes of the crisis organisation, and communications. In addition to this, the analysis examined the ways in which the City has been able to develop its operations and crisis management compared to the spring 2020 analysis on the first wave of the coronavirus crisis.
In the context of the analysis, members of the Helsinki’s coronavirus coordination group and the City’s chief shop steward were heard. The creators of the analysis had access to the coronavirus coordination group’s meeting materials and decision documents as well as the situational picture documentation produced by the City of Helsinki. The authors also received City-produced materials related to decision-making and implementation pertaining to the coronavirus crisis as well as updated situational assessments for monitoring the impacts of the crisis in various target groups. As separate documents, the authors also had access to Helsinki Group’s preparedness instructions and documents produced and analysed by the City of Helsinki and its partners in relation to communications and media monitoring.