Mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) talked about the coronavirus situation in the Finnish capital region in a press conference in Helsinki on Tuesday, 5 January 2020. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)


THE CAPITAL REGION of Finland has decided to extend the restrictions in place to contain the spread of the new coronavirus until the end of January.

The decision by the regional coronavirus coordination groups means students in vocational and general upper-secondary education will continue to study remotely, and municipality-organised indoor leisure activities for children and young people and both indoor and outdoor activities for over 20-year-olds will remain suspended.

The groups reiterated their strong recommendation that also private service providers suspend leisure activities.

Public events with more than 10 attendees will not be allowed and the majority of public facilities will remain closed until the end of the month. Hospitals and nursing homes, for example, will continue to restrict or completely prohibit visits by family members, while libraries will limit their services to picking up materials from reservation and limited theme-specific shelves using self-service machines.

Locals are additionally urged to limit close contact with everyone outside their co-inhabitants and loved ones. Over 15-year-olds are encouraged to wear face masks on public transport, in public spaces and in education institutes, for example.

Employers are encouraged to shift to teleworking as widely as possible.

The restrictions on the restaurant industry will also remain unchanged until 28 February: Restaurants will be required to stop serving alcohol at 10pm, close their doors by 11pm and limit capacity to half or two-thirds of their usual full capacity depending on whether they serve primarily alcohol or food.

The coordination groups deferred their decision on the leisure activities of children and young people and in-person instruction for students in the third year of general upper-secondary education due to the looming matriculation examinations.

The two issues will be revisited as soon as next week, said Mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori (NCP).

“There’s an exceptional amount of uncertainty at this very moment,” he stated to YLE on Tuesday. “The Christmas and New Year’s holidays mean the test numbers have been low, so we want to monitor for another week. We also want to monitor how bad the situation caused by the mutated British virus is in Finland.”

Helsingin Sanomat reminded that Helsinki and the rest of the capital region remain in the spreading stage of the epidemic, with the capital accounting for 76 of the 299 new infections reported in Finland on Tuesday.

Markku Mäkijärvi, the chief medical officer in the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS), reminded in a news conference that information about the current epidemiological situation is not necessarily comprehensive or reliable.

In Helsinki, he said, roughly five per cent of the tests have come back positive.

“People have had a fairly high threshold symptom-wise for getting tested. We must find a way to fix this. People should get tested even if they only have the mildest of symptoms,” he underscored.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT