Phases of the COVID-19 epidemic and tiers of prevention measures

The action plan for implementing the Government’s hybrid strategy divides the COVID-19 epidemic into three phases. This classification is used to assess the need for recommendations and restrictions and to ensure that they are appropriately targeted in Finland.

Phases of the epidemic

  1. The baseline phase corresponds to the situation in Finland in summer 2020. At this phase, the epidemic is at a stable level.
  2. In the acceleration phase, the spread of the epidemic is beginning to speed up, the regional incidence of cases is higher than at the baseline level and there are several local and regional transmission chains.
  3. During the community transmission phase, the epidemic continues to accelerate and cases are spreading regionally or more widely throughout the population. Tracing is becoming more difficult.

The epidemiological situation is being monitored at the regional and national levels.

Phases of the epidemic by hospital district - thl.fi

Regional and local authorities (hospital districts and municipalities or joint municipal authorities) decide on introducing or lifting measures according to the epidemiological situation. In addition, the regional state administrative agencies may make certain decisions.

Tiers of prevention measures

On 26 January 2021, three tiers of prevention measures were added to the updated action plan for implementing the COVID-19 hybrid strategy. Their purpose is to curb the escalation of the epidemic and prevent the spread of virus variants.

This addition was made to the action plan because one of the new virus strains has been detected in Finland and because it is still possible that we will see a surge in the epidemic. If the new virus variants become more widespread, this could result in a potentially much faster-spreading epidemic.

Tier 1

Tier 1 The current level of restrictions will remain as a minimum level until the spread of new virus strains and the measures taken to prevent it have been assessed. All community transmission phase measures have been implemented in areas where the epidemic is in the community transmission phase.

Tier 2

Based on the threat of rapid acceleration of the epidemic or the spread of new virus strains, the community transmission phase measures should be introduced on a fixed-term and wide-ranging basis throughout the country or in certain specified areas. The goal is to achieve a strong, rapid reduction in contacts. The measures will be introduced if the spread of a new virus variant increases in a certain region and to such an extent that immediate action is required. 

In tier 2, additional measures may also be introduced at the national or regional level. The transition to tier 2 requires separate approval from the Government.

Tier 3

Transition to emergency conditions and introduction of necessary restrictions on movement in addition to the measures for tiers 1 and 2. This is an extreme measure that can be justified only if all of the measures described above have proved insufficient and it can be demonstrated that the epidemic situation poses an immediate threat to the carrying capacity of the healthcare system, or if it is otherwise absolutely necessary in order to safeguard the lives or health of the population. 

The Government’s hybrid strategy to manage the COVID-19 epidemic

On 6 May 2020, the Government adopted a resolution on a plan for a hybrid strategy to manage the COVID-19 crisis. It aims to 

  • prevent the spread of the virus in society, 
  • safeguard the carrying capacity of the healthcare system and
  • protect people, especially those in risk groups.

The resolution in Finnish: Valtioneuvoston periaatepäätös suunnitelmasta koronakriisin hallinnan hybridistrategiaksi - (6.5.2020)

The action plan for implementing the hybrid strategy, adopted in autumn 2020, guides the authorities in managing the COVID-19 epidemic. It sets out the criteria used to determine the phase of the epidemic.

The action plan in Finnish: Toimintasuunnitelma hybridistrategian mukaisten suositusten ja rajoitusten toteuttamiseen covid-19-epidemian ensimmäisen vaiheen jälkeen (7.9.2020)

The action plan has been updated for January–May 2021. It may be revised during the spring if the epidemiological situation so requires.

The updated action plan in Finnish: Toimintasuunnitelma covid-19-epidemian hillinnän hybridistrategian toteuttamiseen tammi–toukokuussa 2021 (5.1.2021) 

The action plan was supplemented with the new tiers of prevention measures (link) on 26 January 2021.

In Finnish: Valtioneuvoston periaatepäätös COVID-19-epidemian hillinnän hybridistrategian toteuttamisesta annetun toimintasuunnitelman täydennyksestä (26.1.2021)

More information

Tiers of COVID-19 prevention - stm.fi (in Finnish)