Action plan to manage the COVID-19 epidemic updated
The Government has issued a resolution on an update of the hybrid strategy to manage the COVID-19 epidemic. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has updated the action plan to remain in force until further notice.
The Government’s goal is to keep the COVID-19 epidemic under control in Finland until a sufficient vaccination coverage has been reached and the risk of a resurgence in the epidemic is significantly lower.
The vaccine rollout has progressed well and the epidemiological situation has improved. However, the number of new COVID-19 cases remains high, and the vaccination coverage is not high enough to allow a more comprehensive lifting of restrictions. The situation may deteriorate again if contacts between people increase significantly and the virus is able to spread more freely in the population.
The Government will carry out an overall review of the action plan in summer and autumn 2021 to take account of the development of the epidemic and the progress in the vaccine rollout. The first review is scheduled for mid-June and the second for August. Restrictions on indoor events will be reviewed separately in early June.
Need for measures assessed based on phases of the epidemic
The action plan divides the epidemic into three phases: baseline, acceleration phase and community transmission phase. The three phases are used to assess the need for and the appropriate targeting of recommendations and restrictions across the country. They are also used when making decisions on lifting restrictions at regional and national levels.
The Government has reviewed the criteria for the phases of the epidemic. From now on, incidence rates will be calculated for 14-day periods only. The progress of vaccinations and the success of contact tracing will carry more weight in the criteria.
Emphasis on outdoor activities and on avoiding close contacts
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry of Transport and Communications issue recommendations to the regional authorities concerning the use and application of restrictions and recommendations at different phases of the epidemic. The recommendations are based on earlier action plans, but they have been harmonised and clarified, and they take better into account existing circumstances.
The recommendation for the community transmission phase is that even large outdoor events can be organised as long as safe distances are observed and special separation arrangements are in place. All indoor events continue to be limited to 10 persons. However, the Government is scheduled to review this restriction in early June. As a rule, activities in high-risk facilities can be suspended only indoors. This recommendation applies only to activities for adults.
The main recommendation for the acceleration phase is to continue avoiding close contacts. More specific recommendations on avoiding close contacts will be issued both for events and for using public facilities. Suspension of activities and large-scale distance learning are no longer considered necessary.
Good basic hygiene and safe distances are the main recommendations in baseline areas. Avoiding close contacts is no longer considered necessary. There are no specific restrictions on public events, although people are still encouraged to keep a safe distance to others.
Keeping in mind that a majority of the population still lacks full vaccine protection, careful consideration must be exercised with any decision to lift restrictions or open up society. Measures included in the acceleration phase may be justified even for the baseline if the epidemiological situation nationally or in the neighbouring areas is getting worse. Should a community transmission phase be impending, it is justified to adopt all necessary measures without delay.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will send a circular to the regions with recommendations adjusted based on the updated action plan.
Satu Koskela, Director General
Pasi Pohjola, Director
Jaska Siikavirta, Director