The improved coronavirus epidemic situation in the Helsinki metropolitan area will enable certain services of the city to be opened in a restricted and controlled manner in May. Restrictions and recommendations will be gradually and carefully relaxed on the basis of an overall assessment. The opening up of services will follow the ‘children and young people first’ principle.
Although the situation is improving, the coronavirus epidemic is not yet over and Uusimaa is still an area in which the epidemic is in its spreading phase. Despite the gradual opening up of facilities and services, it is important that everyone continues to comply with the restrictions and recommendations in force.
Some of the tightened restrictions and recommendations related to the spreading phase of the coronavirus epidemic have been in force in Uusimaa for months. For example, secondary schools switched to distance learning on 3 December 2020, so this restriction has been in force for almost five months. In addition, upper comprehensive schools in the area switched to distance learning on 8 March 2021. Now, since mid-April, pupils in both secondary and upper comprehensive schools have been in contact teaching on alternate weeks and from 3 May, there will be a return to full-time contact teaching.
Several other restrictions, such as the opening hours of services, can also be lifted in Helsinki in May.
The Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group decided on 20 April 2021 that comprehensive school grades 7–10 and secondary education are to make a full transition to contact teaching as of 3 May 2021. Education is currently arranged by using a rotation model.
Indoor guided activities for those born in 2001 and afterwards, in premises managed by the Education Division, will be launched at the beginning of May. This opening is conditional on a health safety plan submitted to the city concerning the activities. The plan must, among other things, describe how close contact will be avoided in the context of the activities and how group sizes will be proportioned to the space available.
The summer activities and summer meals of open early childhood education and care in playgrounds will be arranged between 7 June – 10 August, in accordance with the current coronavirus restrictions and instructions. Of the city’s 65 playgrounds, 31 host summer activities such as park dining. These playgrounds will also host day-camp activities for 1st-3rd graders, subject to restrictions. Playground yards and fixed outdoor equipment are available to local residents. However, paddling pools will remain closed.
The service points of Helsinki Vocational College and Adult Institute will open from 3 May onwards, taking into account the infection situation.
Customer service points in the Education Division will open from 3 May onwards at Töysänkatu 2 and Teollisuuskatu 21–23.
Culture and Leisure Division
As regards the Culture and Leisure Division, restrictions will be lifted in a manner to be decided upon separately by the Helsinki Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group. For its part, Helsinki will implement the decisions made by the Helsinki Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group on 20 April 2021 and 27 April 2021:
Guided recreational activities in outdoor areas and facilities will be made available to a limited extent for persons born in 2001 and younger. However, the dressing room facilities of outdoor sports facilities will remain closed (toilets open). Recreational activities other than sports are now also possible outdoors. Youth work activities will be permitted outside in limited groups.
Guided recreational activities in indoor areas and facilities will be made available to a limited extent for persons born in 2001 and younger from 3 May onwards.
- The possibility of swimming pool visits will be opened to special swimming card holders from 3 May onwards at the City of Helsinki’s Pirkkola and Itäkeskus swimming pools. The pools will be open according to normal opening hours. The swimming pools of Mäkelänrinne and Vuosaari of Urheiluhallit Oy will also be open to the holders of a special swimming card to a limited extent. However, the saunas will remain closed until further notice.
- Youth facilities will be opened in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area to a limited degree from 3 May onwards. The focus of youth work will continue to be on outdoor activities. In accordance with the health security principles applicable to youth work, persons over 12 years of age are required to wear a mask in youth facilities, unless health-related reasons prevent them from doing so, whilst the number of participants is limited on a premises-by-premises basis so that safe distances can be ensured and the number of participants can be monitored and, if necessary, limited.
In accordance with the current decisions, library services, youth work, indoor and outdoor sports facilities for those born in 2001 and younger and the swimming facilities of special card holders will continue to be limited until 16 May. Swimming pools, museums and cultural centres are closed until 16 May. On a weekly basis, we will look at what restrictions can be lifted next.
Social Services and Health Care Division
Visits to hospitals, senior centres, assisted living facilities and nursing homes will continue according to the relaxed separate guidelines outlined on April 19. The relaxations will continue to be made gradually in accordance with the coronavirus situation and in accordance with the guidelines of the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, in cooperation with the municipalities of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Visits to disability services will continue in accordance with the current visit guidelines until the end of May.
The shops and service points for Uusix workshops will be gradually opened from 3 May onwards.
Urban Environment Division
The premises of the customer service point of the Urban Environment Division at Työpajankatu 8 will open on 3 May, taking into account the restricted number of customers in public premises and the industry’s health safety instructions. The customer service point will be open during the summer Monday-Tuesday from 08:15 to 12:00 and Wednesday-Friday from 12:00 to 15:00.
Harakka Nature Centre will open to the public for outdoor activities on 3 May and be open on weekends 10:00-17:00. The opening hours depend on the connecting vessel, which only operates on weekends in May. In addition, nature school groups and courses are also welcomed. From the beginning of June, the nature centre will also be open from 10:00-17:00 on all days of the week, if the coronavirus situation permits.
City Executive Office
The advisory service for customers of the Helsinki Employment Services’ local government pilots will be opened at the Pasila office (Ratapihantie 7) from 3 May onwards. The essential public service will only allow 10 customers at a time, including staff.
The services and events of the new companies unit- NewCo Helsinki- will primarily be arranged remotely during the rest of the spring. For customers from immigrant backgrounds, the possibility of personal local services will be opened from 3 May onwards.
The customer service of the registrar’s office at Helsinki City Hall (Pohjoisesplanadi 11–13) will continue with the current operating model, at least, until the end of May. The registrar’s office functions using E-services so that customers can retrieve documents from the mailbox in the City Hall lobby and also return them to it.
As of 3 February 2021, the Helsinki Mediation Office was opened on a limited basis, so that only parties to one case are admitted to the customer premises at the one time. Mediations will continue, at least until the end of May, with the current approach, but with the launch of third-party online mediation from the beginning of May. These events shall be scheduled in such a way that the number of persons present at the mediation office does not exceed the set recommendations.
The City Hall lobby and the research hall of the city archives will remain closed, at least, until the end of May.
Photo: Jonna Pennanen