While many restrictions remain in place, the coronavirus coordination group has decided to lift limitations on children’s hobbies to prevent “negative consequences on the well-being of this age group.”

Finnish pop singer Diandra Flores joining the children for some exercise during the winter holidays at the Töölö Sports Hall in Helsinki in 2013. Photograph: Tony Öhberg/Finland Today

On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group decided to lift some of the restrictions aimed to tackle the coronavirus pandemic in the capital region. But not without discontent from the government.

Here’s what will remain unchanged until February 28, 2021.

All public events and meetings held indoors or outdoors continue to be limited, following the decision by the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland.

The number of people attending public events and meetings are limited to 10 in Uusimaa, Kanta-Häme and Kymelaakso regions. In South Karelia, the limit for public gatherings is 20.

But this time with the stick comes the carrot. The coronavirus coordination group decided to allow people under 20 to resume indoor hobbies in the venues administered by the cities in the capital region. The restrictions will be lifted on the 1st of February.

This decision, according to Mayor Jan Vapaavuori of Helsinki, who was speaking in a press conference on Wednesday, is based on an evaluation of the group that the toll on the well-being of children and youth will grow heavier if sports continue being banned. At worst, the effects, according to Vapaavuori, could be fully realized only after several years. “The youth don’t get enough exercise, and this is already a problem. The problem has only gotten worse during the coronavirus,” Vapaavuori said.

In addition to the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, the city of Kauniainen will also adhere to the restrictions and recommendations of the coordination group.

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Children are also allowed to exercise freely in the southwestern parts of the country—also in the spreading phase of the pandemic. “The way we see it, the risk of being infected with the coronavirus during children’s hobbies is quite small,” said Mikko Pietilä, deputy medical director at the hospital district of Southwest Finland.

“Some have been subjected to the virus in these events, but we haven’t had large outbreaks,” Pietilä added.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (the SDP) said on Wednesday evening before a government meeting that currently there shouldn’t be any reason to loosen the restrictions.

Earlier in the week, the government revealed an updated plan to combat the pandemic. The pandemic situation is now evaluated based on three tiers with the third tier allowing the hardest restrictions to be laid upon the society, from canceling the upcoming municipal elections to imposing restrictions on movement. Currently, Finland is at the first level of the plan, which essentially means that all restrictions allowed by the current legislation to limit the spreading—including suspending children’s group hobbies—should be in force.

In the past few days, almost a thousand new coronavirus infections have been confirmed in Finland. According to the ministers, we are not far away from moving to the second level, where, for example, students in the upper classes of the comprehensive schools could be sent home to distance learning.

“We are facing a situation where we are undertaking the final rounds of the current restrictions,” said Krista Kiuru, the minister of family affairs and social services, on Wednesday.

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Should the pandemic situation get worse in the upcoming days, according to Kiuru, “moving to the second level will be in front of us very soon.”