Government agrees to ease restrictions on gatherings, operations of food and beverage service businesses and visits to care institutions and hospitals
In its meeting on Wednesday 17 June, the Government heard an overview of all of the policies put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections and to protect vulnerable groups.
The Government also agreed to ease the restrictions as follows:
- The Government recommends that as of 1 August 2020, if the development of the epidemic continues in the current direction without any significant setbacks, events with more than 500 persons may be organised in both indoor and outdoor spaces. Event organisers must ensure the safety of attendees by following the guidelines from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Ministry of Education and Culture concerning safe distances, hygiene practices and limiting the number of visitors, if necessary by dividing activities into smaller sections. Based on their discretion, the Regional State Administrative Agencies will make decisions on the matter in July for a maximum of one month at a time.
- As a final dismantling measure, if the development of the epidemic continues without any significant setbacks, the restrictions on gatherings may be lifted altogether as of 1 October 2020, in which case all indoor and outdoor events would be permitted without restrictions on the number of attendees. The Government recommends that event organisers themselves continue to ensure compliance with the above-mentioned guidelines.
- The Government will regularly review the guidelines for public events and public meetings based on the current situation and impact assessment at the national and regional level. If the development of the epidemic takes an unfavourable turn and if the assessment so requires, the plan for lifting the restrictions will be reviewed.
- The restrictions will remain in force until the end of July in line with the previous decisions of the Regional State Administrative Agency. Indoor and outdoor public events and public meetings with fewer than 50 attendees are allowed. It is always wise to comply with the hygiene guidelines. Internal and outdoor events with more than 50 but fewer than 500 attendees are permitted, provided that safety can be ensured by promoting good hygiene practices, maintaining safe distances and limiting the number of visitors as recommended by THL and the Ministry of Education and Culture. Outdoor events with more than 500 attendees are allowed with special separation arrangements.
Easing of restrictions on operations of food and beverage service businesses
The Government also decided on easing the temporary restrictions on the operations of food and beverage service businesses. The Government will issue a decree on the matter on 18 June. The restrictions are based on the Communicable Diseases Act.
- As of 22 June 2020, the decree will be amended so that food and beverage service businesses can open as of 4.00 and must close by 2.00 at the latest.
- Alcohol sales can start at 9.00 at the earliest and must stop at 1.00 at the latest.
- Buffets will be permitted again.
- Three quarters of the number of persons permitted in the serving licence or building plan may be present in the indoor premises of a food and beverage service business at one time.
- All customers must still have their own seat. In addition, food and beverage service businesses must arrange their indoor and outdoor furniture and serving practices so that customers will not be exposed to the spread of COVID-19. In particular, food and beverage service businesses must make sure that there is no unnecessary congestion in their premises and that customers and parties can enter the premises while maintaining a safe distance from one another.
- Food and beverage service businesses must ensure that customers can wash or sanitise their hands upon arrival. Likewise, furniture, dishes, cutlery and other surfaces must be kept clean so that they do not pose a risk of spreading the disease. Food and beverage service businesses must have visible instructions on handwashing, maintaining safe distances and other practices in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Government agreed that the restrictions on food and beverage service businesses would be lifted as of 13 July. Even then, however, a seat must be reserved for each customer.
Government dismantles recommendation to avoid visits to hospitals
The Government has decided to dismantle the recommendation to avoid visits to hospitals. The lifting of the restriction concerns persons receiving hospital treatment in both specialised and primary healthcare.
However, a cautious approach must still be taken when arranging visits, using regional discretion, in line with other work to combat the spread of infectious disease during the epidemic.
The operating unit is responsible for the practical arrangements, such as the use of personal protective equipment and appropriate meeting places.
Units providing 24-hour care and treatment must provide their older clients and others belonging to risk groups with the opportunity to meet their loved ones safely, for example by ensuring adequate protection in an outdoor location or by arranging separate, protected meeting facilities.
The Government recommends that, as a general rule, access to the customer premises of units providing 24-hour care and treatment remain limited to the staff of the unit. The spread of the epidemic in housing units for people belonging to risk groups remains a significant risk.
The recommendation to avoid visits does not apply to persons providing essential services to the client, such as rehabilitation workers or personal assistants. The families of clients who are critically ill and clients in hospice care, and the support persons of clients in the maternity ward, should be given the opportunity to meet their loved ones safely.
Inquiries: Anita Lehikoinen, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education and Culture, [email protected] (gatherings); Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki, Strategic Director, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, [email protected], and Taneli Puumalainen, Chief Physician, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, [email protected] (development of the epidemic); Ismo Tuominen, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, [email protected] (food and beverage service businesses)