Government discusses action plan to manage COVID-19
In its meeting today on 3 September, the Government discussed an action plan that will serve as a guideline for implementing the recommendations and restrictions set out in the hybrid strategy after the first phase of the COVID-19 epidemic. Following the meeting, the government plenary session issued a resolution authorising the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health to adopt the action plan.
The aim of the action plan is to use the Government’s hybrid strategy to prevent the spread of the virus in Finland, safeguard the resource capacity of the healthcare system and shield and protect people, especially those in risk groups.
The action plan divides the epidemiological situation into three general stages:
- The base level corresponds to the situation in Finland in mid-summer 2020. The incidence of infections is low and only a small proportion of infections originate in Finland.
- At the acceleration stage, the regional incidence of infections is > 10–25 per 100,000 persons over a period of 14 days. Local and regional transmission chains are largely traceable and there is sufficient capacity to respond to the need for hospital care without special measures.
- At the spreading stage, infections are spreading at the regional level or more broadly throughout the population with an incidence of > 18–50 infections per 100,000 persons over 14 days. The number of cases is growing at a daily rate of more than 10 per cent. Fewer than half of the sources of infection are traceable, and the need for hospital care and intensive care is growing sharply.
The classification of the epidemiological situation at the regional and national level is based on an overall assessment using quantitative and qualitative criteria, taking into account the direction and speed of the changes and the population base of the area in question.
In order to prevent the spread of infections effectively, the measures set out in the Government’s hybrid strategy must be targeted in a way that is epidemiologically and medically appropriate.
- Measures taken in line with the test, trace, isolate and treat approach primarily target people who are suspected to have contracted the virus and their close contacts who may have been exposed. The aim is to break transmission chains and prevent the spread of the virus to the wider population.
- Targeted recommendations and restrictions are targeted at premises, events and activities where the risk of spreading the virus can justifiably be considered to be elevated. As a rule, these restrictions are adopted at the local or regional level. Even then, the restrictions must be necessary and proportionate to the risk.
- Recommendations targeted at the entire population include actions that generally decrease the number of contacts (maintaining physical distance, remote work recommendations) and reduce the likelihood of infection in everyday life (respiratory and cough hygiene, face masks)
- Extensive restrictions on the population may be justified as last-resort measures in order to prevent the threat of a serious spread of the epidemic.
At the base level, emphasis is placed on hygiene recommendations for the entire population, local and regional government measures (identifying the sources of infection, testing, and breaking transmission chains) and on ensuring material preparedness for a possible surge in the epidemic. The strategic objective of these measures is to keep Finland at a base level where the epidemic is not spreading more broadly.
If the epidemic appears to be approaching the acceleration stage, the necessary actions include further intensifying measures in line with the communicable diseases legislation, identifying infected persons, tracing and breaking transmission chains and introducing new individual-level measures to prevent infections.
If, despite all precautions, we see increased signs that the spreading stage is approaching, the additional measures needed are broader and stricter regional and national recommendations and restrictions, along with preparations to increase treatment capacity.
The action plan is to be put into effect at the same time as the post-crisis management measures adopted following the first phase of the epidemic and in parallel with the reconstruction stage. The use of recommendations and restrictive measures requires a comprehensive assessment in which the decisions are weighed in terms of their epidemiological, social and economic impacts and in relation to fundamental rights.
The overall situation concerning COVID-19 measures at the national level is monitored by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Government’s COVID-19 Coordination Group. At the level of the Government, the primary focus is on the overall effectiveness and functionality of the hybrid strategy and on the prerequisites for regional action.
Inquiries: Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki, Strategic Director, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, [email protected], and Mika Salminen, Director, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, [email protected]