A lunch plate in Chico’s Sello in Espoo, Finland, on 19 April 2021. Restrictions on the restaurant sector are set to be relaxed in the capital region as of today, 11 June. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)

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THE CAPITAL REGION of Finland has moved from the worst, community transmission phase of the coronavirus epidemic to the acceleration phase, according to the regional coordination group.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on Thursday tweeted that the government will consequently convene for an extraordinary session this morning to make a decision on relaxing the restrictions on restaurants in the region.

The objective is that the eased restrictions are enacted immediately, on Friday.

The Regional State Administrative Agency (AVI) for Southern Finland on Thursday announced it has begun drafting a decision to relax the restrictions on public gatherings in the wake of the move to the acceleration phase. The decision is to be made public on Monday and the adjusted restrictions implemented on Tuesday.

The decision is expected to comply with the recommendations made by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

The ministry has outlined that no attendance limits are required for public events and gatherings held indoors or restricted outdoor spaces in areas in the acceleration phase of the epidemic.

The attendees or participants of an indoor gathering of more than 10, however, must have the possibility to avoid close contact – that is, contact at a proximity of less than two metres for over 15 minutes – with each other. The attendees or participants of outdoor gatherings of more than 50 must similarly have the possibility to avoid physical contact with each other, although no specific safety distances are required.

Eastern and Western Uusimaa, with the exception of Espoo and Kauniainen, were deemed to return to the baseline phase of the epidemic, meaning the restrictions on gatherings are set to be lifted entirely.

Markku Mäkijärvi, the chief medical officer at the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS), on Thursday said the coordination group reviewed the regional epidemiological situation carefully.

“The development has been favourable for a while now. Based on an overall consideration, we decided on this move to the acceleration phase,” he was quoted as saying by YLE.

The coordination group underlined that the decision should not be interpreted as a sign that the epidemic is over, but the public must continue to exercise caution, health safety practices and restrictions. HUS presently meets all the criteria for the acceleration phase except the criterion on the two-week incidence of infections, which at 53.8 is more than double the threshold value of 25 per 100,000 inhabitants.

The hospital district had been in the community transmission stage of the epidemic since November 2020.

In spite of the determination, the restrictions on organised indoor exercise, independent use of gyms and group exercise facilities, and the competition, match and tournament activities of adults will remain in place – similarly to the recommendations on face masks and remote work.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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