Prime Minister’s Office decides on management and coordination of COVID-19 communications
The current state of emergency and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have a broad impact on all areas of society. In a state of emergency, the role of rapid dissemination of information and a clear division of responsibilities for coordinating and implementing communications is further emphasised. On 18 March, the Prime Minister’s Office made the decision to apply the powers laid down in section 106, subsection 1 of the Emergency Powers Act to the management and coordination of COVID-19 communications. The decision will remain in force until 30 April 2021 or, at the most, for as long as Finland is in a state of emergency as defined in the Emergency Powers Act.
On 11 March, Parliament decided that the decree on the use of powers laid down in section 106, subsection 1 of the Emergency Powers Act concerning the communications of managing authorities could remain in force. The decree will not apply in the autonomous region of Åland. The decree on the use of these powers will remain in force until 30 April 2021.
The decision of the Prime Minister’s Office applies to the Government, its ministries and its subordinate central government agencies and units. The decision does not apply, for example, to the Office of the President of the Republic, to independent courts and supervisors of legality or to parliamentary agencies and institutions subordinate to Parliament, such as the Social Insurance Institute of Finland (Kela), nor does it apply to municipalities or joint municipal authorities.
In line with the decision, the Communications Department of the Prime Minister’s Office will manage COVID-19 communications within the Government and its ministries. The Communications Department will issue the necessary regulations to the communications departments of the ministries so that they can implement their COVID-19 communications measures. A strategic steering group for COVID-19 communications will be appointed to the management and coordination of communications measures concerning COVID-19.
The Communications Department of the Prime Minister’s Office will coordinate the COVID-19 communications measures of central government agencies and other units. These authorities will keep the Communications Department informed of their plans and measures related to COVID-19 communications. In other respects, these agencies will manage their communications independently. The Communications Department will implement COVID-19 communications campaigns in cooperation with national and regional authorities.
The Prime Minister’s Office will not issue regulations to central government authorities on the content of their communications. The coordination and management of communications by the Prime Minister’s Office does not apply to communications concerning the research activities of state research institutes.
Authorities and public officials are still obliged to communicate on issues for which they are responsible. The decision to adopt the section of the Emergency Powers Act concerning the management of communications does not eliminate this obligation.
The scope of the situation and the intensification of COVID-19 communications will require the transfer of personnel from other ministries and agencies to the Communications Department of the Prime Minister’s Office. The Prime Minister’s office will agree on personnel arrangements with the other authorities.
Coordination aims to make communications clearer, more proactive and easier to understand
The most important fundamental right from the point of view of government communications is the right to obtain information on the preparations and decisions made by public authorities. Public authorities are therefore responsible for promoting openness in their activities and for producing and disseminating information so that citizens and other stakeholders can assess the authorities’ work, participate in initiatives under preparation and supervise their own interests and rights.
The aim of coordinated COVID-19 communications is to provide citizens and communities with clear and understandable information on the development of the epidemic, the actions taken by the authorities to combat COVID-19 and the reasons for these actions. Communication can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of restrictive measures. Clear information makes it easier for people to act in ways that help them protect themselves and others from COVID-19 infections and prevent the spread of the virus.
By enhancing joint communications and coordinating communication efforts, the Government will also be better equipped to combat misinformation and disinformation. There is a great deal of false and misleading information circulating about COVID-19 and vaccinations. At its worst, this information may threaten public health.
Inquiries: Timo Lankinen, Permanent State Under-Secretary, tel. +358 50 574 160,300 and Päivi Anttikoski, Director of Government Communications, tel. +358 40 536 4821, Prime Minister’s Office