Mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori and CEO of HUS Juha Tuominen talked at a press conference about the coronavirus situation in the capital region in Helsinki City Hall on Tuesday, 24 November 2020. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)

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THE CITY OF HELSINKI is drafting widespread restrictions on social activities in collaboration with the rest of the capital region of Finland.

Helsingin Sanomat on Tuesday revealed that the city is set to completely shut down public spaces such as libraries, sports facilities and swimming pools in order to rein in the sharp increase in new coronavirus infections.

The shut-downs would affect all municipality-run facilities except social and health care services and would also be recommended to private service providers.

Public events are similarly set to be prohibited altogether instead of being allowed as long as the number of attendees does not exceed 20. Students in vocational and general upper-secondary education, meanwhile, will transition completely to remote instruction.

Mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) on Tuesday said in a news conference that these kinds of restrictions are being drafted, adding that further details and the schedule for implementation will be released later this week. The decision-makers have yet to, for example, decide on the extent to which the organised activities of children and young people should be limited.

A final decision on the measures will be taken by the coronavirus coordination group for the metropolitan area, which consists of representatives from each of the municipalities, the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa. The measures would thereby also apply to Espoo and Vantaa.

An announcement on the measures is expected on Friday.

Vapaavuori stated that the risk of the situation exacerbating rapidly was recognised when the coordination group decided on the latest set of measures last week. “This risk has now been realised,” he said, confirming that the capital region meets all the criteria for the spreading phase.

He acknowledged that the measures will have an impact on economic activity but argued that they have to be robust enough because not all people are acting responsibly.

Juha Tuominen, the chief executive at HUS, reminded that the number of new infections, the share of positive tests and the share of over 40-year-olds of the infected have all increased in recent weeks. The demand for hospital care has also begun to rise, with the hospital district having 42 patients, including five in intensive care, with Covid-19 on Tuesday.

“We need sturdier measures,” he said.

Tuominen also drew attention to the importance of wearing face coverings, observing social distancing, adhering to hand-washing instructions and getting tested at the onset of even the mildest of symptoms.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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