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Helsinki area coronavirus group drops general mask recommendation

In light of the new guidance, the region's transport authority, HSL, says it will no longer require passengers to wear face masks. 

Children and youths in the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa will not be required to wear face masks on school premises. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

Helsinki's Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group recommended on Wednesday that people can reduce the use of protective face masks in public places if they wish.

The group (siirryt toiseen palveluun), consisting of officials, authorities and medical experts from the area, said that children and youths in the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa will not be required to wear face masks on school premises. They added that those who wish to continue wearing the protective devices can still do so and that schools will continue to provide masks free of charge.

However, the coordination group still recommends use of face masks for those who are on their way to a Covid testing facility, people who show respiratory infection symptoms and are unable to stay at home, or individuals who know they have been exposed to coronavirus.

Last week, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) similarly announced it was dropping its general face mask use recommendation, but noted that mask use was still required and recommended in many areas.

Meanwhile, following the coordination group's update, Helsinki's transport authority (HSL) also announced on Wednesday that it was no longer requiring passengers to wear face masks. However, a recommendation for mask use is still in place for people riding on state railway (VR) trains.

Piritta Rautavuori, THL's communications manager, said that people should follow regional rules and recommendations, depending on the situation. For example, VR's mask recommendation overrides guidelines from the coronavirus coordination group and THL.

In its statement about the new guidance, HSL thanked passengers and staff for taking responsibility for hygiene and safety during the epidemic, particularly their use of masks.