Tuesday. 28.03.2023

Government launches strategy to gradually lift restrictions

Libraries will start to loan books immediately. From 1 June, restaurants and public facilities will gradually reopen. Public gatherings will be limited to 50 people and telework is still recommended. The organization of large public events and meetings of more than 500 people is prohibited until 31 July 2020.
Government ministers at the press conference. Photo: Lauri Heikkinen/Vnk.

The Government has published a plan for the progressive lifting of the restrictive measures adopted in March and April to curb the expansion of the coronavirus. The Government will adopt a related resolution at its plenary session where it sets out in detail the particular decisions taken.

In a marathon meeting that started on Sunday and run to Monday evening, the team led by Prime Minister Sanna Marin has drawn the guidelines -they call it a "hybrid strategy"- for its de-escalation plan.

It does not matter that 20 people have died in Finland in the previous 48 hours. The Government says that the epidemic has stalled and is in a "dormant phase" thanks to the restrictive measures previously adopted.

For that reason, they have decided to lift the large-scale restrictive measures, in combination with what they call a "test, trace, isolate and treat" principle. With that strategy they expect to "prevent the disease from progressing," according to the press release issued on Monday evening by the Government Communications Department.

In its negotiations, the Government agreed to the gradual elimination of the following restrictive measures:

  • From 14 May, the statutory restrictions on border traffic will be lifted in cross-border traffic across the Schengen internal borders by allowing employment or commission-related commuting and other essential traffic.
  • Recreational travel abroad is not recommended, and the travel advice issued by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs will be extended accordingly. The Ministry of the Interior will draft more specific guidelines on the gradual opening of border traffic. Finland considers it important that the lifting of the restrictions on border traffic be coordinated at the EU level.
  • The gradual opening of restaurants will begin on 1 June 2020, provided that this is supported by the effects of lifting the current restrictions and by the subsequent general epidemiological assessment. This requires legislative amendments that would enable imposition of restrictions on, for example, the number of customers and the alcohol serving hours. Legislative proposals to that effect will be brought for the Government’s consideration no later than 13 May 2020.
  • Outdoor recreational facilities will be opened as of 14 May, subject to the restrictions on gatherings.
  • Sports competitions and series can be celebrated since 1 June, though with special arrangements.
  • Borrowing books and other materials from libraries will be allowed immediately.
  • The following public indoor premises will be opened in a gradual and controlled manner as of 1 June: national and municipal museums, theatres, the National Opera, cultural venues, libraries, mobile libraries, services for customers and researchers at the National Archives, hobby and leisure centres, swimming pools and other sports facilities, youth centres, clubs, organisations’ meeting rooms, day care services for the elderly, rehabilitative work facilities and workshops.
  • The organization of large public events and general meetings of more than 500 people is prohibited until 31 July 2020.
  • Restrictions on gatherings are still necessary. Based on an epidemiological assessment, it will be possible to ease the restrictions on the number of persons from the current 10 to a maximum of 50 from 1 June until further notice. The situation will be reviewed again by the end of June.
  • The 50-person limit applies not only to public gatherings but also to events organised by private and third-sector operators, to cultural, recreational, exercise and sports events and to religious events. As concerns indoor spaces and enclosed outdoor spaces, such as amusement parks, zoos, libraries and cinemas, safety will be ensured by limiting the number of visitors, ensuring safe distances and providing guidance on personal hygiene. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will issue a circular to the regional authorities on implementing these restrictions.
  • Restrictions concerning general upper secondary schools (highschools), vocational schools, higher education institutions and liberal education will remain in force until 13 May. From then on, starting on 14 May, the use of the premises of the above-mentioned educational institutions for teaching will be controlled through measures in line with the Communicable Diseases Act. Contact teaching can be resumed in a controlled and gradual manner. However, the Government recommends that universities, universities of applied sciences, upper secondary schools, vocational schools, liberal adult education and basic adult education institutes continue distance teaching until the end of the semester.
  • Restrictions on the organisation of basic education in the arts will remain in force until 13 May, after which their premises will be opened correspondingly for contact teaching.
  • The recommendation on working from home is continued until further notice. The recommendation will be reassessed after summer.
  • Anyone aged over 70 years should continue to avoid physical contacts as far as possible. The Government emphasises that those who belong to the risk groups should use own discretion in observing the guidelines.
  • The restrictions concerning visits to healthcare and social welfare units will remain in force until further notice and the matter will be next reviewed by the end of June. For example, care units are looking for new practices to enable safe social contacts.

The Government’s decisions are based on the first phase of the report put together by Permanent Secretary Hetemäki’s working group on the coronavirus exit and reconstruction strategy.

Government launches strategy to gradually lift restrictions