In a 3 August 2021 meeting, the Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group determined that the region has returned to the community transmission phase.
The epidemic situation has worsened considerably in recent weeks in the Helsinki metropolitan area, where the number of coronavirus infections has increased rapidly. The need for hospital care is rising slightly in the region, placing a larger burden on social and healthcare services. The increased need for coronavirus guidance, testing and contact tracing has largely accounted for this heavier workload.
Situations with a lot of social interaction, in which participants have been unable to maintain safe distances, have played a significant role in the spread of virus. Infections chains have been identified at nightclubs, restaurants, bars and large public events.
Finland’s government and regional government agencies are invested with the authority to respond to the changed epidemic situation. The government is expected to assess the need for changes to restaurant restrictions accordingly. No changes will be made at this stage to recommendations and restrictions on the use of the metropolitan area’s indoor public spaces and the organisation of leisure activities on municipal premises.
Contact teaching in schoolsThe coordination group wishes to emphasize that recommendations and restrictions associated with the epidemic should be in proportion and targeted to those situations in which infections have been acquired. The appropriateness of the restrictive measures and the balance between benefit and risk must be considered as a whole, in light of the epidemiological situation and the risk assessment. It is particularly important to ensure that the wellbeing of children and young people is prioritised in practice as well as principle.
Metropolitan area schools will begin instruction this autumn in the classroom. This decision applies to both comprehensive schools (grades1-9) and upper secondary education facilities (grades 10-12) in the cities of Helsinki, Vantaa and Espoo.
Health safety measures will be strictly observed in the provision of contact teaching, utilising best practices learned in the spring.
Over the course of the last academic year, students of upper secondary education in the metropolitan area were required to study from home more than the rest of the country. The negative effects of distance learning tend to accumulate most for students who are already vulnerable. Tight student restrictions have a strong influence on their study performance and general wellbeing.
The Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group is continuously monitoring the epidemic situation. If necessary, the group is prepared to re-evaluate its decisions as the situation changes.
It is widely recommended that both public and private sector employees continue to work from home, if possible. Employers must make the necessary precautions to reduce close contact and eliminate other potential risk factors in the workplace.
Face mask use
The Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group recommends that area residents over the age of 12 use a face mask, in accordance with Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare recommendations. This face mask recommendation is in effect in indoor public spaces, public transport, and other public means of transportation. Students in grades 6 and up are also asked to comply with the face mask recommendation at school.
Work communities should enforce mask use if several people are working in the same space.
In addition, it is recommended that area residents over the age of 12 use a face mask at outdoor public events, too.
Regional authority decisions The Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group recommends that the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland tighten restrictions with regard to section 58 of the Communicable Diseases Act (re: the organisation of public events) in line with the community transmission phase. The group also recommends the agency update its decision on section 58(d) (re: maintaining actual distances in public spaces).
Actual maintenance of distance at public premises, section 58(d) of the Communicable Diseases Act
Indoor spaces with more than 10 people must be able to guarantee that participants can maintain a two-metre distance from each other. In enclosed outdoor spaces with more than 50 people, close physical contact is prohibited.
Organisation of public events
Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on public events and meetings during the community transmission phase state that events and meetings can be arranged indoors for a maximum of 10 people. Participants should maintain two-meter distances from each other at all times, in line with the Communicable Diseases Act and guidelines from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare and the Ministry of Education and Culture.
If more than 10 people participate in an indoor public event or meeting, they must each have their own personal seat or standing space. If there are more than 25 participants, the space must be divided up into separate blocks.
Outdoor public events may have a maximum of 50 people present. If there are more 50 people attending the event, they must be divided into separate blocks, for example, individual viewing areas. No more than 50 people can share a block, and people in one block cannot mix with people in other blocks.
The Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland is responsible for decisions associated with actual distancing and public events. The agency will announce its decisions separately.
Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group prepares and coordinates local decision-making
On 10 September 2020, the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa joined with the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa, and the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland to establish the Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group. 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.
The group consists of senior 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.
Photo: Lauri Rotko