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How to hold a safe graduation party? THL Expert: "The virus isn't transmitted easily outside"

The health institute recommends that people who notice even mild Covid-like symptoms should cancel their party plans and get tested immediately.

Ylioppilas ylioppilaslakki.
File photo of new graduate holding student cap. Image: Kaisa Siren / AOP

This weekend thousands of youngsters and graduates are set to celebrate the end of the school year. But as the coronavirus epidemic is still ongoing, health authorities are recommending that parties be held safely.

While the epidemic situation has clearly improved across the country in recent weeks, new infection clusters continue to appear now and then.

Several hospital districts across the country have recently loosened restrictions regarding caps on gathering sizes. However, as graduation celebrations often prompt travel from various parts of the country, some may be travelling to and from areas which are in different phases of the epidemic.

Hanna Nohynek, a vaccinologist with the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), offered several tips on how to more safely arrange festivities in the age of Covid-19.

Her first advice is that face masks should be worn at the parties, noting that most new graduates still haven't been vaccinated, as the jabs haven't rolled out to younger age groups.

Masks recommended

"If unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people are at the party, the use of masks is strongly recommended. Coronavirus vaccines significantly reduce a person's virus secretion and also prevents transmission. However, vaccinations do not completely prevent infections," Nohynek explained.

In other words, it is still a good idea for fully-vaccinated individuals to wear face masks, as it is still unclear how well Covid vaccines are able to prevent infection.

Story continues after photo.

Kuohuviiniä laseissa.
Glasses of sparkling wine or champagne are commonly offered at graduation parties in Finland. Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä/ Yle

People hosting parties should pay particular close attention to their own health, and while it may be impossible to going shopping for party supplies, it is still a good idea to steer clear of unnecessary contact with others before the festivities get started.

Guests should be invited to gatherings in smaller groups and staggered, according to the expert. People visiting from the same regions should visit at the same time, making it more difficult for the virus to spread from region to region, she said.

Outdoors is best

Nohynek also recommended that parties should be held outside or indoors in spacious settings.

"The virus isn't transmitted easily outside because the air moves and safe distancing measures are easier to follow," she explained.

The weather this weekend will likely be suitable for outdoor parties, according to meteorologist forecasts. A high pressure system will likely keep skies sunny and conditions relatively warm towards the end of the week, with temperatures expected to exceed 25 degrees in northern areas.

However, there is a chance that the high pressure system will diminish over the weekend, bringing increased chances of local showers, but it will still be warm, according to Yle's meteorology department.

Keep visits short

Nohynek also recommended that guests only stay at parties for a short period of time to reduce possible exposure incidents. Under normal circumstances a 15 minute visit could seem impolite, but in this case short stays can help prevent infections.

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Juhlatarjoiluja tarjottimella
Party hosts should make sure foods are spread out and easily picked up by guests. Image: Pasi Takkunen / Yle

She said the coronavirus variants were much more contagious than the virus' original form.

Additionally, when offering guests foods, Nohynek said that it would be a good idea to put out individual portions that are spread apart, which guests can pick up without having to share communal serving utensils, like cake knives for example.

The THL has posted a guide for holding Covid-safe summertime parties here.

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