Metropolitan area group proposes binding mask use order
Members of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group have decided on new recommendations to limit the spread of the covid-19 coronavirus. The group now advises people to wear face masks in their workplaces and has proposed a binding order be issued for the mandatory use of masks at public events.
In a 13 October 2020 meeting, the Helsinki Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group decided on new local measures to curb the spread of covid-19. The goal is to utilise local and regional methods to tackle the pandemic in order to avoid large-scale restrictions.
The coronavirus coordination group does not condone a broad transition to distance learning or the large-scale closure of leisure activities at this juncture, preferring instead to step up more regulated use of masks, enhanced safety and hygiene guidelines, and stricter controls to curb the spread of the epidemic. The current practice of transitioning to extraordinary instruction arrangements on a local level if necessary has proven to be an effective approach. A wide-scale distance learning transition is now considered a last resort in the effort to limit the spread of the virus.
The group’s new decisions and policy recommendations are based on an epidemiological assessment of the situation and the fact that the epidemic is currently spreading quickly among people engaging in free-time activities and in workplaces.
Mask use recommendation expands to workplaces
The use of a face mask is already recommended for everyone over the age of 15 in public spaces (shops and malls), at public events, as well as when using public transport. This recommendation had been earlier expanded to upper secondary schools, universities and youth work, as well as for social and health care personnel who interact with patients or customers.
The coordination group’s new decisions extend the recommendation even further to all workplace situations, especially those in which wider groups of employees meet, such as meetings, coffee breaks, and gatherings in common areas. This extended recommendation also applies to situations in which it is difficult to avoid close contact or enforce recommended hygiene and safety precautions.
The group also recommends that parents and guardians use a mask when visiting early childhood education facilities, i.e., when they drop off and pick up their children from daycare and pre-primary education.
The Regional State Administrative Agency of Southern Finland recently decided that events with more than 50 people can be held indoors and outdoors in the month of October, if participant safety can be ensured in line with instructions from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Social and Finland’s Ministry for Education and Culture.
The cities of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area join the HUS hospital network and THL in the belief that it would be warranted to issue a new binding order already in October that says that indoor and outdoor public events for more than 20 people can only take place if everyone involved (customer service staff and participants) is required to wear a mask and only half of the event venue’s capacity is in use. The group sees that a stronger binding regulation is needed for the entire Helsinki Metropolitan Area until the end of November. The Regional State Administrative Agency of Southern Finland is responsible for making an official decision on this matter.
The organisers of the events are responsible for ensuring participants’ health safety.
The coronavirus coordination group continues to strongly recommend extreme caution and restraint in the organisation of private events, asking that no events with more than 20 participants be arranged at all for the time being.
Local and regional decision-making
The Cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, THL, HUS and the Regional State Administrative Agency of Southern Finland established a regional Helsinki Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group on 10 September 2020. In line 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 organisation and is responsible for the preparation and coordination of decision-making based on a shared assessment of the situation. Decisions are made by each member independently, within its own sphere of operations. The group further intensifies the close member collaboration that has continued throughout the coronavirus crisis.
The City of Helsinki is responsible for organising the group’s operations.