The City of Helsinki has begun to prepare for the incremental loosening of coronavirus-inspired limitations, in line with a decision from the government. Special arrangements and restrictions will be relaxed gradually in city services and facilities, with the proper regard for safety considerations and guidelines.
The aim is to open indoor and outdoor spaces to public use as soon as possible, but safety considerations may prohibit some venues from reopening by the start of June as planned.
Library loaning operations will be reopened under special arrangements already by the end of May. Libraries will not reopen entirely until the first of June, when museums, theatres, cultural centres, activity centres, swimming halls and other sporting facilities, youth centres, club facilities, rehabilitative work programmes and job centres are also scheduled to reopen.
The city’s outdoor sports venues will be reopened for use according to new restrictions on the size of gatherings beginning on 14 May. More specific guidelines on how to arrange sports competitions is requested from the state before the city can implement reopenings in this area.
Each of the facilities that are reopening will be subject to special arrangements in order to ensure the safest possible conditions.
Enclosed outdoor spaces, such as amusement parks, zoos and cinemas, will be kept safe by limiting the number of customers, maintaining safe distances and following the proper hygiene guidelines, in accordance with forthcoming government recommendations.
More specific information is also required from the state with regards to the incremental reopening of restaurants, cafes and bars, currently scheduled for 1 June. This added information is requested as soon as possible, particularly if the reopenings might require action from municipal authorities.
Work trips and leisure travel outside of Finland’s borders may require the reintroduction of port inspections at Helsinki’s harbours, so the city is also considering its course of action in this matter.
In terms of organising events, the city will comply with the government decision to continue the ban on large public gatherings until the end of July. August is Helsinki’s busiest month of the year when it comes to events, but the government has yet to decide when such gatherings will resume.
The government has also recommended that people over 70 years of age continue to self-isolate. For this reason, Helsinki is planning a series of new care home practices that would make it possible to engage in safe social contact.
Children in early childhood and comprehensive education (pre-K through grade 9) will return to face-to-face classroom instruction on 14 May, in accordance with the recent government decisions and recommendations. Distance learning for these children will no longer be available after 13 May.
Afternoon care for schoolchildren will continue as it did before. Club activities arranged by the schools will however not be arranged during the last week of May.
The City of Helsinki is also making preparations to continue distance learning for upper secondary school and vocational education students (grades 10-12) until the academic year finishes, in line with the state decision. This will free up some school premises for use by younger pupils. The city hopes to reach decisions on this matter later this week.
Helsinki’s policy of refunding day care fees for unused services will likewise expire on 13 May.
Reopening of schools will require many special arrangementsIt is likely that teaching will be staggered in the comprehensive schools when they reopen. Student groups will be kept separate throughout the school day. This will require the city to find additional space, so that teaching can be spread out accordingly. School and day care personnel will also be asked to stay with the same group of students through the day, if possible, instead of moving from one group to another. Special arrangements of this kind will require additional municipal workers and more resources from the city.
In its use of school spaces, Helsinki will follow guidelines from the Ministry of Education and Culture, the National Agency of Education and the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare. Even so, there are many specific issues that must be considered carefully on the municipal-level and the individual school-level. The possibility of staggering instruction or taking new facilities into use is being explored, in order to ensure safe distances are possible. All vacant properties in the city’s education division are being included in these considerations, as are locations in the city’s culture and leisure division and other organisations.
School lunches will be arranged for each class or group separately, not as part of a group in the school cafeteria. The school lunch pick-up service will cease when the children return to their classrooms.
The last two weeks of instruction in schools will concentrate in particular on the children’s wellbeing, sense of community, and broad-based skills.
Special attention will be devoted to children judged to be at risk of marginalisation, or those students who were difficult to contact or had many absences during distance learning measures, or those whose studies or results clearly suffered during this period. This group also includes children who have been identified as needing enhanced or special support. Counsellors and psychologists from student services will also be available, and efforts are being made to make the services of school health care staff available as well.
Schools will also resume their normal practices when it comes to student absences. Children may not come to school if they have any symptoms that might indicate that they are ill. If students start to feel poorly during the school day, they will be moved to a separate space immediately to wait for their parents or guardians, in the company of an adult.
Photo: Antero Aaltonen / Leonatan Oy