The government has unveiled what it calls a ‘hybrid timetable’ to phase out many of the restrictions brought in to slow the spread of coronavirus in Finland.
At a Monday evening press briefing, Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP), Finance Minister Katri Kulmuni (Centre), Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo (Green), Education Minister Li Andersson (Left) and Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson (SFP) laid out the measures they want to take immediately, by the middle of May, and by the beginning of June – which were negotiated during two days of discussions with coalition partners at the House of the Estates in Helsinki.
Ohisalo said on Monday morning that even when restrictions are eased, Finland will remain a “two metre country” for the time being.
So what will change, and when?
Borrowing books from libraries will resume immediately, but the libraries won’t be fully open for general use until 1st June.
From 14th May restrictions on upper secondary schools, vocational colleges, universities and adult education centres will be lifted, but distance learning is still recomemended until the end of the school year.
Border restrictions with Schengen countries – Estonia, Sweden and Norway – will be eased from 14th May as well for work and other “essential journeys” – but recreational travel abroad is not recommended for now. Outdoor recreational facilities will also be opened, subject to restrictions on gatherings, from the middle of the month.
From 1st June restaurants, cafes and bars can start to re-open, with certain conditions. The same goes for sports competitions which can begin but with some special arrangements which will be announced later. Public indoor spaces will be opened in a controlled manner, and public swimming pools can also open from this date.
Also from 1st June the restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people will be changed to a restriction on gatherings of more than 50 people. Cultural venues like museums and theatres can open from 1st June, and libraries can fully open their services from that date too.
Why are the restrictions easing now?
Ministers say that they’ve been successful in slowing the spread of the virus by using the restrictions and improving hygiene.
By gradually phasing out restrictions, the government hopes to curb the epidemic, while minimising the adverse impact on people, businesses, society and the rights of people who live in Finland.
However, some of the measures announced on Monday are subject to change, depending on scientific assessment. For example restaurants can start to open from 1st June, but only if there’s not an increase in the spread of coronavirus when some of the other restrictions start to ease two weeks before then.
The government also recommends that people continue to work from home “until further notice” and say they will look again at that situation after summer.
Anyway aged over 70 should continue to avoid physical contact as far as possible, and anyone who falls into a risk group for Covid-19 should use their own discretion when it comes to observing the guidelines.