SCHOOLS in Finland will re-open their doors to pupils in a gradual and controlled manner as of 14 May, Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) and Minister of Education Li Andersson (Left Alliance) announced on Wednesday.
The decision to resume in-person teaching is the second to lift a major restriction introduced to slow down the spread of the new coronavirus.
The Finnish government reminded yesterday that municipalities are obliged under law to provide basic education and cannot independently decide either to shut down schools or to only provide remote teaching. If coronavirus infections are detected, the decision to shut down a school or schools will be made by the authority responsible for disease prevention under the communicable diseases act.
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Normal rules on attendance and absence will similarly apply as of 14 May.
The government stressed that the decision to lift the restrictions on early-childhood and basic education was made on grounds of an epidemiologic evaluation indicating that it is no longer warranted to uphold the restrictions under the emergency powers act. Nor are there grounds for resuming teaching one grade at the time, as the subjective right to basic education belongs equally to everyone under the constitution, according to Marin.
The transition to in-person teaching, the government assured, will be carried out in a way that is controlled and does not compromise the safety of pupils or staff.
Schools will not, however, be allowed to organise closing ceremonies or other large events. The school year ends on Saturday, 30 May.
Marin outlined that teaching could be organised in turns and schools could also utilise other facilities than classrooms to ensure minimal contact between different groups of pupils during the school day.
Andersson, similarly, underscored that schools should immediately begin considering how to organise teaching in a way that ensures a high level of hygiene and minimises close contact between pupils and staff.
She reminded that the current instructions will continue to apply, meaning that no child or adult should go to school if they are suffering from flu-like symptoms and that everyone should exercise good cough and hand hygiene.
The government also stated that physicians will be responsible for determining whether pupils with a difficult chronic disease or a family member with a difficult chronic disease can participate in in-person teaching. The assessment for staff members will be made in collaboration with the employer and occupational health care provider.
Andersson also delivered a message to concerned parents, reminding that all the decisions are based on the assessment of health care officials that it is safe to return to early-childhood and basic education.
Experiences both abroad and at home suggest children have only had a minor role in spreading the new coronavirus, according to the government.
Mika Salminen, the head of health security at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), stated yesterday that children contract the virus rarely and, even then, typically develop only minor symptoms.
The risk of a child transmitting the virus to an adult is “really not realistic,” he said.
THL on Wednesday also reported that slightly over 200 under 18-year-olds have tested positive for the virus in Finland. Not a single one of them, however, has developed symptoms so serious that they have required hospital care.
“Even though you can get a coronavirus infection also from an asymptomatic carrier, people with symptoms transmit the virus at a clearly higher rate than those with minor symptoms. That is why the virus is not spreading as actively among children,” explained Otto Helve, a physician of paediatric infectious diseases at THL.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi