Government submits legislative proposal to Parliament on temporarily restricting freedom of movement and close contacts
The Government has submitted a proposal that would place temporary restrictions on freedom of movement and close contacts and introduce a mask mandate in the areas worst affected by COVID-19. The main objective is to reduce the number of encounters and close contacts between people in areas where COVID-19 is spreading rapidly and uncontrollably. The goal is to protect people from the dangerous communicable disease and to safeguard the capacity of the healthcare system. The Government submitted the proposal to Parliament on Thursday 25 March.
The restrictions would be introduced by separate government decree in areas where the epidemic can no longer be prevented using the existing measures.
In the hospital districts of Helsinki and Uusimaa and Southwest Finland in particular, the situation is so severe that if the incidence of the disease increases at the current rate, the need for medical care will grow significantly and there is a 50–75 per cent chance that we will exceed the carrying capacity of specialised healthcare over the next few weeks. The new virus variants that are currently spreading are 30–50 per cent more transmissible than the original virus that was spreading at the beginning of the epidemic. It is estimated that two thirds of all new COVID-19 cases in Helsinki and Uusimaa are caused by new virus variants, while the corresponding figure for Southwest Finland is almost half.
Restrictions on movement could be imposed for three weeks at a time
In areas where the restrictions on movement are in force, people would only be allowed to leave their homes or places of residence for essential reasons or for outdoor recreation.
People could move around outdoors for recreational or fitness purposes with others belonging to the same household or at most two other persons. While doing outdoor activities, it is important to keep a safe distance from other people. Walking pets would be allowed.
Children born in 2008 or later would be allowed to do outdoor activities and play outside with other children.
You are always allowed to return to your home or place of residence. People living in areas where the restrictions are in force would be allowed to leave their municipality of residence only for essential reasons. The same would apply to people from other municipalities entering areas where the restrictions are in place.
Movement would also be permitted if for those leaving or entering the country
The restrictions could be imposed for a maximum period of 21 days, and they would only be in force for as long as necessary. They could be extended for a maximum of 21 days at a time.
The Government’s legislative proposal would also introduce a mask mandate in areas where the restrictions on movement are in force. In line with the proposal, all people born in 2007 or before must wear a face mask while in indoor spaces and in means of transport with persons other than those belonging to the same household. The police could impose a fixed fine of EUR 40.00 for violation of the mask mandate.
Movement would only be permitted for essential reasons:
Essential movement would be permitted for the following reasons:
- to purchase food and drink, medicines, fuel or other items of similar importance for everyday life
- to handle banking matters and to collect and send mail and other items
- to access healthcare or social welfare services or official services that cannot be accessed remotely
- to perform duties related to a post or employment relationship or to pursue trade or business activities
- to participate in early childhood education and care as laid down in Act on Early Childhood Education and Care (540/2018), in education or activities as laid down in the Basic Education Act (628/1998) or the Act on the European School of Helsinki (1463/2007) or in upper secondary general education, vocational training or higher education, or to take an entrance exam, aptitude test, matriculation examination test or other similar test required for such education.
- to carry out tasks related to a public position of trust, to participate in a meeting of a private corporation or foundation, to perform the duties of a member of an institution or to represent a corporation or foundation in situations where deferring this participation, performance or representation could cause damage to the corporation or foundation, a shareholder or member, or to any other person
- to perform military service or meet another statutory obligation
- in connection with the need for care, risk of death, or the death or funeral of a family member or other close person, to provide assistance and support to a child or to fulfil the right of access to a child, to provide assistance and support to a person with a disability, or for reasons related to an established relationship or other comparable reasons
- for a private meeting of a spiritual nature with a representative of a religious community
- for the maintenance or servicing of a building, property or vehicle owned or controlled by a person, or for the purpose of moving to another place of residence
- to care for an animal for which a person is responsible
- to travel to a leisure home owned or under long-term possession by the person or by someone belonging to the same household*
- to perform rescue services as referred to in the Rescue Act (379/2011) and other acts.
If the proposed restrictions on movement are introduced, the details will be communicated broadly and multilingually through a variety of different communication channels. Effective communication aims to ensure that information about the restrictions reaches all people living, working and moving in the areas where the restrictions are in force.
Police would be responsible for monitoring compliance with restrictions on movement
Upon request from the police, people would need to provide an account of their destination and their reason for moving around outside. The police could not prevent a person from moving outside for an essential reason provided in the decree. The police could order crowds to disperse, apprehend persons violating the restrictions and impose a fine for the violation.
The act is set to enter into force as soon as possible and it will remain in force until 14 May 2021. The act would not apply in the autonomous region of Åland.
* items in bold added on 25 March at 16.50
Inquiries: Timo Lankinen, Permanent State Under-Secretary, tel. +358 295 160 300, [email protected], and Päivi Anttikoski, Director of Government Communications, tel. +358 40 536 4821, [email protected], Prime Minister’s Office