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
- The baseline phase corresponds to the situation in Finland in summer 2020. At this phase, the epidemic is at a stable level.
- 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.
- 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.
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 COVID-19 prevention measures to be discontinued in May 2021
Since January 2021, three tiers of COVID-19 prevention measures have been in place at the national level in Finland. The purpose of the tiers of prevention measures has been to curb the acceleration of the epidemic and prevent the spread of virus variants. Using the tiers of prevention measures, the authorities have been able to prepare for the state of emergency and guide regions where the epidemic is in the acceleration phase in introducing restrictions for the community transmission phase.
In line with its resolution of 6 May 2021, the Government agreed that the nationwide tiers of prevention measures could be discontinued due to the favourable development of the epidemic. This means that the focus of the restrictions will shift towards measures corresponding to the epidemiological situation in each region. In other words, in line with the Communicable Diseases Act, the epidemic will be managed primarily using local and regional measures corresponding to the phase of the epidemic in the area in question.
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.
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.
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 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 its resolution on 6 May 2021, the Government stated that the use of nationwide tiers of COVID-19 prevention measures could be discontinued.