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Finland passes baton to local officials over guidelines for team hobbies and sports

The recommendations are not legally binding and local and regional administrations will be responsible for implementation.

Salibandyn yleiskuvaa
Image: Salibandyliitto

Government announced a decision in principle on Friday regarding coronavirus guidelines for group hobbies and team sports.

The policy transfers responsibility to municipalities and municipal associations for issuing regional recommendations for team activities during basic, accelerating and spreading stages of the epidemic. Each stage will have corresponding safety precautions that must be observed if public events are organised.

Municipalities and municipal associations will be able to recommend that organisations responsible for indoor or outdoor facilities for team sports and hobbies must either organise facilities or limit spectator numbers or seating to ensure that athletes and spectators have as little contact as possible with each other.

During the accelerating phase, local authorities may also recommend remote sessions or the suspension of group activities for people over the age of 18.

During the spreading phase, authorities may consider considerably tightening restrictions by either temporarily suspending hobbies and sports or calling for them to be organised remotely, for example.

Absence of hobbies has negative effect

However the government stressed that it is important for local authorities to consider and assess the potential negative impact of calling off children’s and young adults’ hobbies and sports, to determine whether or not they can continue, and if so, to what extent.

The experiences gained last spring suggest that long-term restrictions on leisure time activities have significant social and educational effects on children and young adults.

Additionally, the government said that children appear to face a considerably reduced risk of infection and illness from the disease, compared to adults.

The recommendations are not legally binding. It will now be up to regional authorities to apply them.

Sports enthusiasts and hobbyists also expected the government to make a statement about activities and sports that carry a high risk of infection, but Friday’s decision in principle did not address this issue.

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