Guidance on group leisure activities for children and young people
The Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare have drawn up guidelines on principles for organising, restricting and suspending group leisure activities for those under 18 years of age at the different tiers of the epidemic specified in a Government Resolution. The guidelines are part of the measures outlined by the Government to minimise the negative effects of COVID-19 on children and young people. The Ministry of Education and Culture and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare recommend that the guidelines be followed in indoor group leisure activities already at tier 1, and when moving to tier 2, also in outdoor group leisure activities.
On 26 January, the Government issued a Government Resolution for supplementing the action plan implementing the hybrid strategy for combating the COVID-19 epidemic. The supplement to the action plan describes three tiers to prevent the outbreak from escalating and, in particular, to curb the spread of COVID-19 variants.
In tier 1 in areas that are in the community transmission phase, it is recommended that adult group leisure activities and participation in them be temporarily suspended altogether. Special consideration should be given to group leisure activities for children and young people under 18 years of age.
In tier 2, may be recommended that children’s and young people’s indoor group activities that are considered to cause high risk of infection be temporarily suspended and, where possible, be carried out remotely. Leisure activities would be suspended if they fail to comply with the established principles of safe leisure activities.
The purpose of the guidelines is to highlight practices and situations that have an impact on the leisure activities of children and young people from the point of view of health security. Thus, at least the age of the children, how unchangeable the composition of the group is, the content of the activities, the size of the facilities, the size of the leisure group and whether the activities are carried out indoors or outdoors must be examined.
Age of children
The guiding principle of the Government Resolution is that group leisure activities for children under 12 years of age should not be restricted. Thus, the recommendations of these guidelines mainly apply to indoor group leisure activities for 12-18-year-olds. However, in tier 2, it is recommended that indoor leisure activities for those under 12 years of age comply with the criteria laid down in the guidelines for safe and secure leisure activities.
Criteria for safe and secure leisure activities
Constancy of the composition of leisure activity groups
To prevent and trace the spread of COVID-19, it is important that each leisure activity group always meets in the same composition. If the leisure activities of children and young people take place during the community transmission phase, it is crucial that it happens only in the group’s composition and only in the form of the group’s own sessions and training. This means that the group should not take part in competitions, concerts, performances, shows or other situations in which the group comes into contact with other leisure activity groups. Teachers, instructors and coaches should also always be the same ones. Parents may not spend time in their children’s leisure activities and dressing rooms.
Content of the activities
The content of the activities plays a major role in the risk of infection. The risk of infection is highest in team activities and contact sports as well as in other activities that involve close contact and strenuous use of voice. For reasons of impartiality, it is not justified to prohibit activities such as group leisure activities altogether, as individual training sessions can also take place in such a way that no close contacts are formed.
If children’s and young people’s indoor leisure activities are allowed during the community transmission phase, all teachers, instructors and coaches, as well as parents and guardians, should pledge to comply with the principles laid down. National organisations should also pledge to instruct, guide and self-monitor their member organisations. The organisers of the leisure activities or instruction are always responsible for instructing and supervising the compliance of the guidelines by those taking part in the leisure activities, the personnel and all stakeholders.
Size of facilities and leisure activity groups
In indoor leisure activities, taking into account the size of the facilities, it would be advisable, where appropriate, to limit the number of participants to 10 people. In big gyms and other large spaces, it is possible for separate groups of 10 people to exercise without any contact between the groups. In large cultural and sports facilities that have several different spaces and rooms, the restrictions on the number of participants could be applied separately for each space and taking into account the size of each space.
Leisure activities outdoors and in restricted areas outdoor areas
The risk of infection is much lower outdoors than indoors. For this reason, even in the community transmission phase in tier 1 of the epidemic, there are no grounds for restricting group leisure activities outdoors or in restricted outdoor areas. However, when tier 2 is reached, group leisure activities in restricted areas outdoors should follow the recommended procedures.
Inquiries: Esko Ranto, Director General, Ministry of Education and Culture, tel. +358 295 330 115
Government decides to supplement action plan for COVID-19 hybrid strategy (Press release of 25 January 2021)
4.2.2021 Correction in the press release: The Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare have drawn up guidelines.