Two persons wearing face masks.

Helsinki Metropolitan Area introduces new methods to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the context of hobby activities

The Helsinki Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group has today decided on new recommendations and measures relating to hobby and recreational activities. Changes to reduce the risk of spreading the virus have already been implemented in all hobby activities and more can still be added. The aim is to ensure the continuation of hobby activities for children and adults as safely as possible.

The new measures have also been discussed between Finland’s largest cities, which are also known as the C21 cities. The majority of the C21 cities adhere to corresponding policies that suit their own epidemiologic situation. Each respective city will provide more details about their decisions and strive to ensure that their policies are as unified as possible, taking the epidemiologic situation into account.

In the event that the epidemic continues to accelerate or the current guidelines and measures prove insufficient, the recommendations will be reviewed.

Face masks are required on city premises used for indoor sports and exercise

Starting from Monday 2 November 2020, the cities will require all persons aged 15 or above to wear a face mask in their indoor sports facilities. A mask must be worn at all times except during the actual physical activity. Persons who cannot wear a face mask for health-related reasons will not be required to wear a mask. The affected persons will not be required to provide a medical certificate or other proof.

This obligation applies to all indoor sports and exercise, such as school premises being used for club and hobby activities. Indoor skating rinks are also regarded as indoor sports facilities.

Face masks are still recommended to be worn on all recreational premises. However, epidemiologic assessments have indicated that necessitating the use of face masks in indoor sports facilities is justified instead of mere recommendations.

Public premises

City offices will remain open. Customer numbers and adherence to safe distances on the premises will be actively monitored. If necessary, the staff will limit the available services or the number of people allowed on the premises at the same time. If adherence to safe distances cannot be otherwise ensured, customer numbers can be restricted below normal levels. For some premises, this may already mean that it is necessary to limit customer numbers by more than half. Public premises include indoor swimming pools, sports halls, youth facilities, cultural centres, museums and libraries.

Hobby and group activities

Health security measures that are more stringent than official recommendations have already been imposed on most hobby and group activities. The cities have refrained from dividing different hobbies into high-risk and low-risk activities. However, the cities will require each operator to make even more systematic changes to improve health security even further.

The following lists examples of solutions to be implemented with regard to hobby activities:

  • Avoid mixing of groups.
  • Avoid hugging, yelling and unnecessary gatherings.
  • Implement staggered entry to the premises.
  • Reduce the number of parents/guardians and escorts on the premises.
  • Reduce group sizes.
  • Increase safe distances by rearranging the spaces.
  • Move practice sessions and other activities outdoors.
  • Organise some hobby activities remotely.
  • Change the content of practice sessions.

As regards activities organised by associations, the organiser is responsible for ensuring health security in accordance with official guidelines and recommendations. Clubs and associations are encouraged to utilise the expertise of central organisations, sports federations and the Finnish Olympic Committee. The cities also provide organisers of hobby activities with advice and instructions on good practices.

Hobby and recreational activities on non-city premises

The coronavirus coordination group and cities of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area implore private companies and non-profit organisation that manage recreational premises and activities to adhere to the same procedures as their city-led counterparts to prevent the spreading of the virus. Private indoor sports facilities are recommended to require face masks in accordance with the principles listed above. City recreational services will provide advice and guidance on how to implement the policies.

The officials responsible for cultural and recreational activities organised by the cities will provide more details on the practicalities of the operating models.

The metropolitan area’s coronavirus coordination group is preparing local decision-making

The Cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, the National Institute for Health and Welfare, the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa, and the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland established a regional metropolitan area coronavirus coordination group on 10 September 2020. The group applies the regional operating model of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, and its aim is to strengthen the formation of a common situational picture and to coordinate and prepare regional and local measures.

Consisting of top-level executives and administrators, the group uses the shared situational picture to prepare and coordinate decision-making. The final decisions are made by the respective operators within the limits of their authority. The group will further intensify collaboration in the metropolitan area, which has been going on during the entire coronavirus crisis.

The City of Helsinki is responsible for organising the group’s operations.

Photo: Drazen Zigic / / iStock Photo