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Government publishes plan and timetable for lifting COVID-19 restrictions, consultation round begins

Government Communications DepartmentMinistry of Economic Affairs and EmploymentMinistry of Education and CultureMinistry of Social Affairs and HealthMinistry of the Interior
Publication date 9.4.2021 9.41 | Published in English on 9.4.2021 at 10.40
Press release 224/2021

The Government has published a plan to lift the restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 epidemic, along with a target timetable.

The plan is available at the Institutional Repository for the Government. The Government is requesting comments and opinions on the plan over the next seven days. All interested parties are invited to submit their comments using the service until 16 April. Submitting a comment requires registration to the service. The comments will be analysed and drawn upon in the finalisation of the plan. 

In addition to the public consultation round, the Government will hold a separate event where labour market organisations and municipalities can discuss the plan. 

“Let’s make a better summer together”

The purpose of the plan is to give the public, businesses and communities a clear picture of how society will gradually open up. The dismantling of restrictive measures requires everyone to act responsibly and continue to follow the existing restrictions and recommendations. If we manage to keep the COVID-19 epidemic under control in April and May and vaccines are progressing steadily, we may meet the requirements set for transitioning towards normal life in Finland in June and July.  

Restrictions to be lifted based on the epidemiological situation 

The plan lays out the principles and epidemiological preconditions for the lifting of restrictions and includes a target timetable detailing the stages at which the restrictions will be lifted.

The plan is based on the available research data, modelling, forecasts and monitoring. It is not binding on the Government and authorities or their decision-making. It is possible that the restrictions will need to be continued, reinstated or tightened again in certain regions if the development of the epidemic so requires. 

It may be necessary to slow down the dismantling of restrictive measures if the number of infections remains high or the number of vaccines is too low. Easily spreading virus variants may also delay the lifting of restrictive measures.

Timetable for the lifting of restrictions and recommendations

The restrictions will be lifted in line with an indicative timetable. This will be possible if the epidemiological situation and vaccine coverage develop favourably.

The Government will reassess the conditions for lifting the restrictions and update the set timetable every two weeks. The impact of the decisions on the COVID-19 epidemic will be monitored and new restrictions can be dismantled every two to three weeks. This way, it will be possible to use information about the impact that the lifting of restrictions has had on the epidemiological situation. 

April – state of emergency ends

  • The powers granted under the Emergency Powers Act will no longer apply
  • Transition to contact teaching (comprehensive school education and upper secondary education)
  • Restaurants will open with certain restrictions; opening hours and the number of customers will still be restricted

Older people have received their first dose of the vaccine.

May – strict restrictions lifted

  • Restrictions imposed due to the threat of a fast acceleration of the epidemic will be removed; return to regional measures 
  • Children and young people may take part in outdoor group hobbies
  • Public and private premises (incl. libraries and museums) will reopen
  • Commuter traffic within the EU will be possible

People in risk groups have received their first dose of the vaccine.

June – regional restrictions gradually lifted

  • Restrictions on gatherings will be eased
  • Restrictions on restaurants’ customer seating and opening hours will be eased
  • Adults may take part in outdoor group hobbies
  • Public events will resume with restrictions on the number of participants
  • Internal border control will end

Vaccination coverage of working-age population having received their first dose of the vaccine is more than 50%.

July – vaccination coverage increases

  • Restrictions on gatherings will be eased and removed
  • Restrictions on the number of participants in public events will be eased and removed

Working-age population has received their first dose of the vaccine and older people and people in risk groups have received their second dose of the vaccine (July-August).

August – vaccination coverage increases

  • Commuter traffic to and from third countries will possibly resume

Working-age population has received their first vaccine dose and older people and people in risk groups have received their second vaccine dose (July-August).

Lifting of restrictions to begin with activities for children and young people

In the Government’s view, it is important for the lifting of restrictions to begin with groups that have been particularly affected by the restrictions. The first step will be to lift the restrictions affecting children and young people.

The aim is for libraries and museums to be largely open by May.

It is also important to update the restrictions and recommendations concerning older people once more information is available on the protection provided by vaccines. Attention should also be paid to the situation of other groups that are estimated to have suffered most from the restrictions. 

First public events could be held in June

The restrictions on public events would be lifted in three stages as outlined in the “safe events” model drawn up by a working group appointed by the Ministry of Education and Culture. 

The main premise is that first public events could be held in many regions in June. In the first phase, public events could be organised in such a way that attendees have pre-assigned seats and that groups would be able to avoid close contact with others. In regions where the epidemic situation is very good, public events could be organised even earlier with the permission of regional authorities. 

The aim is to transition to the second phase in July at the latest. During this phase, it would also be possible to organise larger public events so that the maximum number of attendees would be determined based on the size and characteristics of the space reserved for the event. 

In the third phase, the restrictions would be lifted completely. The goal is to transition to this phase as soon as the epidemic situation permits. 

Dismantling restrictions will support the recovery of businesses

The controlled lifting of restrictions and the target timetable will also help businesses recover from the COVID-19 crisis and plan their activities. The sectors most affected by the pandemic, such as restaurants, tourism and the events sector, may even recover quickly as society opens up.

The costs of correcting the economic and social impacts of the crisis will be addressed in the government session on spending limits at the end of April, in the preparations for the 2022 budget and in the Sustainable Growth Programme for Finland. They are not addressed in this plan.

Restrictions on entry into the country to be lifted

Entry into Finland has been restricted and border control has been reinstated at Finland’s internal and external borders since 17 March 2020. The current decisions will remain in force until 30 April. Internal border control will continue until it can be replaced with sufficient health security measures. 

At the same time, the dismantling of restrictions on traffic will begin in reverse order. According to current estimates, the aim is to open up traffic in border communities, commuter traffic and the travel of families and relatives within the EU’s internal borders between May and June. Internal border control can be discontinued altogether once enough of the adult population has been vaccinated and the epidemiological situation is stable. The current estimate is that this could be the situation in June.

Commuting from third countries could be opened in the early autumn, and other travel from third countries could resume as the epidemiological situation eases. The opening up of traffic from third countries will take into account the EU’s recommendations and the common EU approach.

Preparations for the autumn must be made 

At the end of August, the number of infections may begin to rise again gradually as contacts increase, particularly at educational institutions and workplaces. However, we are unlikely to see a similar rapid acceleration to the one experienced in autumn 2020 if there is sufficient vaccination coverage among the adult population, especially young adults, and if people behave safely.

Inquiries: Henrik Haapajärvi, State Secretary, tel. +358 295 1602 2006 and Taina Kulmala, Head of Unit, tel. +358 295 160 184, Prime Minister’s Office