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Ministry of Social Affairs and Health: municipalities must secure basic-level health and social services and support the most vulnerable under emergency conditions

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Publication date 20.3.2020 14.55 | Published in English on 30.3.2020 at 13.21
Press release 62/2020

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has issued a guidance note to all municipalities, and for onward distribution to municipal units and to private service providers within each municipality, on specialised medical care, primary health care, services to older people, child welfare and ensuring the handling of social assistance under emergency conditions.

Any necessary healthcare and medical treatment, livelihood and care of municipal residents must be ensured even under emergency conditions. 

The aim of the exceptional measures is to slow down the progression of the disease in Finland in order to minimise the number of people requiring hospital care at the same time. In particular, the aim is to protect persons over 70 years of age from the risk of contracting the coronavirus and to ensure the assessment of the need for services, referral to treatment and livelihood of vulnerable people under emergency conditions.

Primary health care has to work

Good and sufficiently extensive operation of primary health care services makes it possible for specialised medical care staff to treat patients who need specialised medical care in the event of an epidemic. It is therefore important that primary health care activities will not be changed unless the infection situation so requires. 

The number of people infected with coronavirus varies from region to region. When the number of patients is moderate and the staff is working, basic-level functions should not be unnecessarily reduced. Even in the event of a prolonged epidemic, organisers of health care services must also provide preventive and non-urgent care in order to maintain the health of the population.

In a difficult epidemic situation, the priority of urgent care for patients is emphasised. When urgent care needs to be prioritised in health services, in an acute situation, the provision of non-urgent care can focus on good treatment of risk groups and patients with special needs for support. However, non-urgent treatment must always be provided if the health status of the patient so requires.

Reorganisation of the work tasks of health care and social welfare services must not endanger the safety of persons in need of support. 

People in need of special support must be helped 

Under emergency conditions, special attention shall be paid to the best interests of clients with special needs. Easy access to guidance, advice and interpretation services must also be ensured.

The rights and the best interests of children must be safeguarded

The obligations of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities apply even during emergency conditions. 

The rights and the best interests of the child must be safeguarded as fully as possible even in emergency conditions. The health care and social welfare services must provide children with the care they need and protect them from violence and maltreatment. 

Attention to the wellbeing of social welfare clients

If the need for social services for a client or family has been assessed as critical in the past and, for example, home services or rehabilitative work are necessary to ensure the wellbeing or livelihood of a person, the service must continue during the emergency conditions in accordance with a municipal assessment. This means, for example, that any non-institutional services necessary for people’s wellbeing are safeguarded.

Social assistance handling process must be secured under emergency conditions

Municipalities and the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela) must ensure, as far as possible, that sufficient resources are allocated to the processing of social assistance, which is the benefit that guarantees last-resort income security. Urgent applications for social assistance need to be prioritised by both Kela and municipalities

Visits to 24-hour care facilities prohibited

Municipalities are urged to issue guidelines to all of their 24-hour care facilities and similar private facilities in their area on the necessary measures to tackle the coronavirus. The most important of these measures is a ban on visits. The ban shall be applied with the exception of asymptomatic family members of children and critically ill individuals, family members of those in hospice care and spouses or support persons in the maternity ward, who will be permitted to visit on a case-by-case basis. These guidelines apply to health care and social welfare units, such as hospitals, care institutions and housing services units. 

The ban comes into effect immediately and is currently in force until 13 April 2020.

Protection of those in home care

In home care, the aim is that the same staff should care for the same clients, to minimise the risk of infection. Each client in home care should have a designated primary social worker. The client should know the phone number to contact. The home care staff should protect themselves using disposable respirator masks.


Kirsi Kaikko, Senior Specialist, [email protected] 
(general affairs concerning social welfare)

Katri Makkonen, Senior Ministerial Adviser [email protected] 
(primary health care)

Satu Karppanen, Ministerial Adviser, [email protected]
(services for older people)

Susanna Hoikkala, Ministerial Adviser,  [email protected] 
(child welfare)

Susanna Rahkonen, Ministerial Adviser, [email protected] 
(social assistance and rehabilitative work)

Liisa Katajamäki, Senior Ministerial Adviser, [email protected] 
(Communicable Diseases Act)