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Yle sources: Schools may reopen on 14 May

The government will consider a proposal prepared by the Ministry of Education to reopen schools at a meeting on Wednesday.

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Schools across Finland have been closed since March 18. Image: Marja Väänänen / Yle

Schools may be reopened across Finland in a controlled manner from Thursday 14 May, according to information received by Yle ahead of a special meeting of the government’s coalition partners in Helsinki on Wednesday.

Schools have been closed since 18 March, initially until 13 April and then extended until 13 May.

An announcement of the decision on the reopening of schools is expected after the government meeting.

A proposal on the reopening of schools has been prepared by the Ministry of Education, in consultation with experts from the Department of Health and Welfare (THL) and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

THL provided the ministry with recent international coronavirus data that suggests children rarely become infected and when they do only suffer very mild symptoms, and this will be presented to the government on Wednesday.

"Although coronavirus infection can also be acquired from an asymptomatic carrier, the symptoms are clearly more contagious than asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic individuals. As a result, the virus does not circulate as actively among children," Otto Helve, THL's pediatric infectious disease specialist, said in a press release on Wednesday.

The latest infection figures in Finland show that out of 4,900 infections, only slightly more than 200 have been detected in children under the age of 16, and the majority of these have been in the Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) hospital districts.

These figures fit with international trends, such as in the United States where the proportion of infections in children under the age of 18 is 1.7 percent.

Staggered opening

Yle's sources also revealed that the proposed reopening would initially only apply to primary schools, and would be staggered so that not all primary school pupils would start back at the same time. Secondary schools would, according to this information, remain closed.

Education Minister Li Anderson said yesterday that schools will need a couple of weeks to make arrangements for reopening, and it therefore could only take place after 13 May at the earliest.

The decision to close schools was considered at the time to be an unavoidable measure and was therefore justified by emergency legislation.

However, the parliament's Constitutional Law Committee may advise the government that these emergency conditions are no longer valid in light of the recent findings. The committee provided similar advice when the government reopened the Uusimaa regional border.

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