Due to the worsening epidemic situation, on Tuesday the Helsinki metropolitan area coronavirus coordination group announced it had tightened recommendations regarding people's use of face masks in public places, regardless of their vaccination status.
The new recommendations went into effect immediately late on Tuesday afternoon, and will be in effect until 16 January, 2022.
The group has recommended that everyone use face masks in indoor settings as well as vehicles where other people are present. The guidance means that the use of face masks is also being recommended at all educational institutions from grade 6 upwards.
The group recommended that local public transport providers HSL and VR restore their recommendations regarding face mask use.
The coordination group recommended that employers reinstate telecommuting arrangements for workers.
The Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District's (HUS) Acting Chief Medical Officer, Jari Petäjä, said that area hospitals have made plans to postpone non-coronavirus related surgeries and procedures in order to secure ICU bed space for the district's growing number of Covid patients.
Petäjä said at the coordination group's press conference on Tuesday that the number of new Covid cases in the HUS area was about as high as during last spring's infection peak.
Call for constant use of Covid pass
The coordination group also called on Prime Minister Sanna Marin's (SDP) government to significantly tighten epidemic restrictions on bars and restaurants, recommending that all establishments in the metropolitan area require the use of Covid passes at all times.
At the briefing, Helsinki Mayor Juhana Vartiainen (NCP) appealed to affected businesses.
"Use of the Covid pass must be more widespread, made into a long-term, normal practice," Vartiainen said.
Vartiainen's counterpart from the City of Espoo, Jukka Mäklelä, said the new recommendations were possibly the first of future measures, depending on the situation that develops.
"If these recommendations do not help — meaning if infections do not start declining — new, [more] restrictive measures will need to be considered, especially for public events," he said.
The Mayor of Vantaa, Ritva Viljanen, apologised for the city's problems in infection tracing, saying there has not been enough time to reach all of those potentially exposed to the virus quickly enough. She said the city's limited tracing resources were being specifically targeted towards large spreads of coronavirus.
Some communities across the region already tightened their recommendations about the use of face masks, ahead of the coordination group's announcement on Tuesday. These communities include Lohja, which recommended that face masks should again be used at local schools. The same policy was also taken into use in Hyvinkää, Nurmijärvi, Tuusula, Järvenpää, Mäntsälä and Pornais.
Earlier on Tuesday it was reported that the coronavirus coordination group of Southwest Finland reinstated recommendations for people across the region to work remotely. The group also issued a strong recommendation for everyone — including fully-vaccinated individuals — to wear face masks in all situations where it is not possible to maintain safe distances from others, both indoors and outdoors.
A coronavirus coordination group in Pirkanmaa has also issued similar recommendations.