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Reopening of society brings joy but polarisation of public discussion causes concern – Lockdown Dialogues recount experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic

Ministry of Finance
Publication date 16.11.2021 12.57
Press release

Lockdown Dialogues, a series of discussions launched at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, continued on 27 October with people getting together to discuss their experiences during the past 18 months. The discussions revealed that while the reopening of society is a cause of joy and happiness, it also causes concern and disappointment.

New rifts in society, particularly those caused by the COVID-19 vaccine debate, are the biggest cause of concern and disappointment. A number of participants expressed their willingness to listen to other people’s perspectives and to take part in the discussion, but were unable to see how that would be possible. They also felt bad about accusing unvaccinated people and labelling them as bad citizens; it is important not to exclude anyone in society. At the same time, however, many people feel frustrated about the pandemic becoming prolonged because some people refuse to be vaccinated. 

Long lockdown leaves its mark

Participants were most worried about the coping and loneliness of the elderly and young people. Students have been unable to participate in social events and activities. Some participants found in-person interaction difficult; they felt they were less able to tolerate social interaction and became tired more quickly in these situations. 

While people felt mostly relieved and energised when remote work recommendations were lifted, returning to a hybrid work environment took some getting used to and involved building new practices. For organisations, operating in a virtual environment was a positive thing as it made it easier for people to participate in their activities.  

The need to understand the views and thoughts of other people came up repeatedly in the discussions, as did the need to forge a stronger sense of community that had suffered during the pandemic. The pandemic has not treated everyone equally, and recovery is also happening differently in different groups. The question is how to find ways to hear those scarred by the pandemic and at the same time support those who are moving on.

In the first autumn session, 12 dialogues were organised Åland, Espoo, Helsinki, Turku and Vantaa, with a total of 84 participants. The Lockdown Dialogues were organised by Dialogue Academy, Timeout Foundation, Citizen Forum, Finnish Lifelong Learning Foundation, Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Hippa-Remote and HYTKE projects of the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences,  City of Tampere Cultural Education Unit TAITE’s Art Arc programme, Turku Cathedral Parish, City of Vantaa and Ministry of Finance.

The aim of the Lockdown Dialogues is to offer individuals, groups and organisations the opportunity to engage in constructive discussion and to build an understanding about what it is like to live in Finland during the COVID-19 crisis. Responsibility for the coordination of Lockdown Dialogues, compilation of a summary and its dissemination to central and local government, and open access publication rests with Dialogue Academy, Timeout Foundation, Ministry of Justice, Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, Ministry of Finance and Prime Minister’s Office. 

The second session of the autumn’s Lockdown Dialogues will be held on Thursday 2 December. 

Janne Kareinen, Director, Dialogue Academy, tel. +358 456316516, janne.kareinen(at) 
Laura Arikka, CEO, Timeout Foundation, tel. +358 445792686, laura.arikka(at) 
Katju Holkeri, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Finance, tel. +358 295 530 087, katju.holkeri(at)