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Finland emphasises kids' well-being in Covid exit plan update

Kids' outdoor hobbies will be OK later this month and by June, graduation parties will be allowed in some areas.

Sanna Marin
PM Sanna Marin speaks to reporters outside the House of Estates in Helsinki on Tuesday. Image: Benjamin Suomela / Yle

On Wednesday the Finnish government presented how the country would gradually lower coronavirus-related restrictions and recommendations, with children first in line to get a taste of normality if current positive trends continue.

At a joint press conference Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) and other ministers said they used input from experts and the public to refine the restriction exit strategy.

Minister of Science and Culture Annika Saarikko (Cen), said that the government wanted to prioritise the well-being of children and young people in the plans, noting that outdoor group hobbies will be permitted again this month.

Starting from the beginning of June, according to current plans, it will be also possible for young people to participate in sport events and group hobbies in outdoor settings.

As the epidemic situation allows, kids will be able to take part in indoor activities that do not involve close contact between participants later in June. At the beginning of the following month, the government said it would be possible for people to take part in indoor competitions and events, as well as hobbies, that involve close contact with participants.

Groups of 50

When asked about the possibility of music festivals and concerts being held, Saarikko said that it might be possible that outdoor events could be held towards the end of the summer.

The government plans to allow indoor events for 50 people or less "as quickly as possible" in areas with adequately low numbers of new coronavirus cases, which means that it could be possible for people in some areas to organise graduation parties in several areas of the country in June.

Meanwhile, the government is also planning to permit outdoor events for more than 50 people in June — if it is possible to maintain distances of two meters between attendees.

However, Saarikko noted that the two-meter rule would be too impractical for many types of events.

Adults will be permitted to take part in group hobby activities outdoors during June and July and then possibly indoors in August at the earliest, Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson (SPP) explained at the briefing.

PM Marin underscored that Finland had not yet beaten the coronavirus epidemic and that the situation has recently worsened in several countries, adding that members of the public need to take responsibility in preventing the virus' spread.

No more distance learning

Education Minister Jussi Saramo (Left) said that the government has decided to stop recommending distance learning, but stressed that schools needed to follow precautionary measures as kids return to classrooms.

He said that there was extensive evidence of the negative effects of distance learning and that many kids' studies had been affected by the practice.

The government also said it plans to continue internal border controls for "as long as necessary" while gradually lifting restrictions in the reverse order in which they were introduced.

Finland's entry restrictions will be gradually lowered starting in May, in line with health safety precautions, the government said, starting at border crossings to Sweden and Norway, then eventually open up possibilities for families and relatives to travel within the EU.

The government noted that its plans to lower restrictions and recommendations were based on a comprehensive review of the epidemic situation while also taking into account the social consequences of restrictions.

A call for opinions about the plans garnered more than 2,100 responses from the public. Those responses also included 115 organisations such as trade, business and municipal employers' groups as well as the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

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