Authorities in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area have announced a slew of stricter recommendations and restrictions to combat the rapidly deteriorating coronavirus situation.
The measures include the closure of city facilities, such as libraries and museums, as well as all indoor sports facilities. Outdoor group sports activities for people aged over 20 will also be cancelled. In addition, public events will be restricted to no more than 10 people.
The region’s coronavirus coordination group said the new restrictions will last for three weeks starting 30 November but could be extended if the situation continues to worsen. The measures apply to the cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen.
Upper secondary schools in the region will also move to remote learning starting 3 December.
Helsinki mayor Jan Vapaavuori said the strict measures were justified as the region is in the spreading phase of the virus and general caution is no longer enough to control the spread. He added that the cities have practically used the entire range of means available to them.
Helsinki University Hospital chief medical director Markku Mäkijärvi said travel should be limited to a minimum and only to close family.
"You should stay at home and avoid travelling. In addition, meetings with non-relatives should be avoided. This is the moment when we all have to make sacrifices," Mäkijärvi said.
Finland reported 618 new coronavirus infections on Friday — the highest daily figure of confirmed cases recorded so far.
Public events limited to 10 people
All public events and general meetings of more than 10 people are prohibited in the Helsinki and Uusimaa and Päijät-Häme hospital districts for a limited period, according to the Regional State Administrative Agency of Southern Finland.
However, public events for a maximum of 10 persons are permitted provided health and safety measures are ensured.
The group recommended that only absolutely necessary events be held, for instance, statutory general meetings.
All public events and concerts arranged in cultural centres, libraries, museums and at sports and youth facilities have been cancelled for the restriction period.
The restrictions will come into effect next Monday. In the Helsinki and Usimaa region, the decision is valid until 18 December, and in the Päijät-Häme Hospital District until 14 December.
Recommendation for private events
The coronavirus coordination group said private meetings or family reunions are not recommended during this time and asked close contacts be limited to members in the same household or very close relatives.
Funerals or memorial services should be restricted to small groups.
These measures apply from Monday 30 November to Sunday 20 December.
The coordination group also announced that all indoor organised hobby activities, as well as outdoor and leisure activities for people over the age of 20, will be temporarily suspended.
Activities for those under the age of 20 with prior bookings can continue outdoors. New time slots will not be granted during the restriction period.
However, no sporting competitions, matches or tournaments will be held indoors and outdoors, barring top-level and professional sports competition.
School sports will be arranged outdoors and at the school’s facilities, but not at other sports facilities.
The group further recommended that private establishments also follow the same restrictions.
Public facilities closed
In addition, all customer facilities open to the public will be closed. This includes all indoor sports facilities, cultural centres, museums and youth facilities in the cities.
Adult education courses organised by the cities will also be suspended.
However, essential public services will remain open, keeping in line with health and safety precautions. These include social and health services and early childhood education facilities.
Services for the needy like distribution of face masks will also continue.
Libraries will offer only limited services — materials can be borrowed and returned quickly based on advance reservations.
The measures related to private events, hobbies and public facilities all apply from Monday 30 November to Sunday 20 December.
Schools switch to remote learning
The group also announced that upper secondary schools will now shift to remote learning. However, contact teaching will still be offered to students with special needs and developmental disabilities.
The measure will come into effect on 3 December and will continue until the end of the year.