The traditional candy-throwing celebration in costumes while riding around the city has been canceled. Photograph: Tony Öhbeg/Finland Today

On Friday, the Helsinki Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group revealed that it will maintain the current restrictions and recommendations on children’s and young people’s recreational activities.

In addition, the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa decided to give seniors of the upper secondary school the option to prepare for their matriculation examinations in the form of contact learning. Also, the traditional Ball of the New Seniors, as well as ‘penkkarit‘, have been canceled.

The upper secondary schooll seniors of the metropolitan area have been distance learning for a particularly long time.


Contact teaching for upper secondary school seniors

The valid recommendations and restrictions pertaining to education will not be eased. However, Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa decided that, in order to implement equality, all upper secondary school seniors will be given the option to enter contact teaching for the period between 18.1.2021 and the end of the third teaching period.

For example, use of the Abitti system used in the matriculation exams can only be practiced in the facilities of the educational institutions. Due to the increased weight of the matriculation examination, consideration of the seniors’ situation and equality at the national level are particularly important.

The period will contain an evaluation week held during the period from 28.1 to 5.2.2021, with the exact dates depending on the city or school. The duration of this evaluation week will be seven workdays. Upper secondary school seniors will be given the possibility to opt for contact teaching also during the evaluation week.

Contact teaching will not be obligatory for the seniors. Instead, they can choose either distance learning or contact teaching. The classes will be arranged in the form of hybrid teaching, with the contact teaching subjects present in the classroom and the distance learning subjects participating online.

A voluntary two-week quarantine is recommended for the seniors prior to the examination. Seniors with missing course points or indispensable needs for contact teaching will switch to distance learning at the latest from 1.3.2021 onwards, which leaves them with enough time to secure their participation in the exams starting on 16.3.2021 through a self-imposed quarantine.

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The arrangement of safe contact teaching at upper secondary schools is, inter alia, guided by the following principles:

Compliance with general hygiene instructions.

Face mask usage.

Staggered meals with consideration of safe distances and general hygiene instructions. Meals will be provided for contact teaching subjects at a different time than for distance teaching subjects who have meals at the educational institution.

Utilization of all premises, which makes it easier to observe safe distances.

Staggered breaks, arrivals and leaving times according to the instructions of the principal.

Indispensable needs for contact teaching will still be met in secondary education so as to not jeopardize the studies and graduation of students needing individual support for various reasons.

Regarding the usual upper secondary school fests, the new seniors’ balls and the school-leaving lorry drive (penkkarit) will be canceled.

The coronavirus coordination group is continuously monitoring the epidemic situation. If the situation changes, the group is ready to re-evaluate its policies swiftly.

Children’s and young people’s recreational activities

In spite of being aware of the negative effects of long-term closures of children’s and young people’s recreational activities on the well-being of children and young people, the coordination group decided to maintain the current restrictions and recommendations on these activities until further notice. The situation is actively monitored, and the restrictions and recommendations will also be re-evaluated if the epidemic situation changes.

The restrictions and recommendations that were imposed by the coronavirus coordination group on 26.11.2020 and will remain in place until 31.1.2021

Leisure activities

All of the municipalities’ organized leisure activities (including basic art education) held indoors have been canceled. All leisure activities for people over 20 years old held outdoors have also been canceled.

All outdoor sports reservations for people over 20 years old are canceled. Outdoors sports for people under 20 years old will continue based on the reservations booked earlier. Competitions, games or series will not be held. New reservations are not being booked.

The municipalities’ outdoor sports facilities are available to local residents when children’s and young people’s activities are not held there. Supervision and the presence of youth instructors have been increased in these outdoor areas. Changing rooms and maintenance buildings will remain closed.

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School sports will be arranged outdoors and at school facilities, but not at other sports facilities.

The practice and competition opportunities for competitive and professional sports have been secured for professional sports based on a series license agreement or sports agreement, as defined by the Ministry of Education and Culture. This includes national teams, athletes supported by the Olympic Committee and athletes receiving a grant from the Ministry of Education and Culture in collaboration with the Metropolitan Area Sports Academy.

The coronavirus coordination group continues to encourage private operators to comply with the same restrictions.

These restrictions will remain in effect 30.11.2020–31.1.2021.

Organizing public events

All public events and meetings held indoors or outdoors have been prohibited for a limited time. However, organizing public events and meetings of a maximum of 10 participants will be allowed, provided that safety can be ensured based on the instructions given by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare on 21.9.2020. Events with at most 10 persons should be limited to the indispensable minimum, such as statutory shareholders’ meetings and association meetings. Remote connections must be used also in these cases whenever possible.

The restrictions will be valid 11.1.–31.1.2021. The decision to extend the restrictions in the area was made on 5.1.2021 by the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland.

Organizing private events

The coordination group continues to recommend that close contacts be limited to members of the same household or those considered as close as household members. Other kinds of private gatherings or meetings with extended family are not recommended. Guests at a funeral or memorial service should still be restricted to only a small group of close relatives.

The recommendation will be valid 30.11.2020–31.1.2021.

Public premises

All customer spaces open to the public will remain closed. This includes all municipal indoor sports facilities, cultural centers, museums and youth facilities. The operations of adult education centers have been suspended. Korkeasaari Zoo is also closed.

The facilities used for providing health care and social services, early childhood education, comprehensive education and essential upper secondary education will remain open. Services such as the essential use of customer computers in libraries and the distribution of face masks to those in need will continue. The cities have defined the facilities offering essential services, which will be kept open to a limited extent and with due consideration to health and safety.

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The coordination group continues to recommend that private operators close similar sports and leisure facilities.

Libraries will continue to offer limited services, which include:

• Picking up materials from the reservations shelves and select themed shelves by the self-service machines.

• Essential and quick use of customer computers.

• The primary service methods are advance reservations and self-service via the machines.

• If necessary, assistance and guidance will be provided at the service desk.

• Wearing a mask is obligatory when using the services, unless health-related reasons prevent it.

These restrictions will remain in effect 30.11.2020–31.1.2021.

Upper secondary education

Secondary education (upper secondary schools and vocational education institutions) will continue with distance learning arrangements. Indispensable needs for contact teaching will be met. For example, contact teaching will be provided to students with disabilities that are receiving special needs education and to students who need individual support for various reasons.

Distance learning began at the start of the new evaluation period on 3.12.2020 and will continue until 31.1.2021.

The metropolitan area’s coronavirus coordination group prepares local decision-making

The Cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa, and the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland established the metropolitan area coronavirus coordination group on September 10 2020. In line with a regional operating model devised by Finland’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the group aims to strengthen the formation of a common situational assessment and to coordinate and prepare local and regional measures.

The group consists of top management from each member organization and is responsible for the preparation and coordination of decision-making based on a shared assessment of the situation. Each member makes decisions independently, within its own sphere of authority. The group further intensifies the close metropolitan area collaboration that has continued throughout the coronavirus crisis.

The City of Helsinki is responsible for organizing the group’s operations.