Ministerial working group on COVID-19 proposes measures to curb worsening epidemic situation
In its first meeting on Friday 7 January, the ministerial working group on COVID-19 was briefed on the epidemiological situation, the spread of the Omicron variant, the burden on and capacity of the healthcare system, and the progress of vaccinations.
To mitigate the rapidly deteriorating epidemiological situation and safeguard the capacity of the healthcare system, the ministerial working group recommends that the current restrictions be extended until the end of January. The working group also recommends continuing border control at Finland’s internal borders.
In addition, the ministerial working group would introduce new restrictions on indoor spaces, events and restaurants. The purpose of the restrictions is to protect the health of the population, safeguard the resource capacity of the healthcare system and ensure that society can function. More resources will also be allocated to COVID-19 testing.
Health safety in schools
The ministerial working group considers it important to improve health safety in schools and educational institutions by accelerating the vaccination of children and young people and increasing the use of home testing. Pupils in primary and secondary school should be tested for COVID-19 twice a week. If several COVID-19 infections are identified in a teaching group, a physician in charge of communicable diseases may issue a decision to increase the testing interval to 3–5 times a week, for example.
Other measures to improve health safety in schools include enhanced masking and quarantine practices and, in areas where the epidemic is particularly severe, exceptional teaching arrangements such as hybrid teaching or distance learning to be implemented through local decisions if necessary. In line with the recommendation of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, no national recommendation on distance learning will be issued at this time.
Restrictions on events and indoor spaces
The ministerial working group would introduce significant restrictions on indoor events and the use of indoor spaces. Municipalities and regional state administrative agencies are advised to ensure that all necessary restrictions on indoor spaces and indoor events and activities of all risk levels are introduced in areas experiencing community transmission in line with section 58 g of the Communicable Diseases Act. This includes indoor recreational activities for children and young people. Low-risk outdoor events and activities can still be arranged if close contact can be avoided. People attending private events indoors are advised to take a home test before meeting with people outside their immediate family. The working group recommends that people meet with no more than five individuals outside their immediate family at a time. The ministerial working group also stressed the importance of personal responsibility in preventing infections.
Restrictions on the opening hours of restaurants
Opening hours will be restricted so that all restaurants must close at 18.00. A government decree on the matter will be issued as soon as possible. The ministerial working group also discussed the full closure of restaurants but did not make a decision on this. Further reports will be commissioned on the matter, and these will be discussed in the week beginning on 10 January.
More extensive use of FFP2 face masks recommended
The working group recommends more extensive use of FFP2 face masks. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health will issue more detailed instructions in the week beginning on 10 January.
Inquiries: Matti Hirvola, Special Adviser, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. +358 295 163 603