Finland is planning on gradually lifting restrictions as part of a hybrid strategy to slowly reopen the country.
Through the adoption of a hybrid strategy, Finland is planning on lifting its lockdown and returning to a more normal way of life, Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced on April 22.
Finland clamped down on COVID-19 early on, enforcing a national lockdown on March 28, before anyone had even died of COVID-19. Because of Finland’s early response, the country is now able to gradually reopen.
Finland’s hybrid strategy involves gradually lifting restrictions while continuing to contain the coronavirus outbreak and carrying out regular tests for COVID-19.
“We want to move towards even more widespread testing and tracking down those who have been exposed,” said Marin on April 22.
In a recent press release, the government detailed its commitment to keeping the situation under control while slowly moving away from broad-based restrictions.
Many of Finland’s countrywide restrictions will remain in place until May. Schools and public libraries are set to reopen on May 13. Restaurants are to remain shuttered until late in the month, while large gatherings of more than 500 people are prohibited until the end of July.
“The restrictive measures cannot all be lifted at once, because the situation is still serious,” said the press release.
As part of Finland’s hybrid strategy, the country plans to introduce an app that will trace COVID-19 infections. The app, underlined in the governmental press release, will be voluntary and won’t compromise the privacy of citizens.
“We have so far been successful in slowing the spread of the epidemic,” Marin said. “Finland will gradually move away from restrictions towards enhanced control of the epidemic.”
Finland’s national lockdown has two main aspects: National travel restrictions around the capital region and stay-at-home orders.
Finland enforced travel restrictions on March 28, preventing people from traveling to and from the capital region, Uusimaa, to the rest of the country. The avoidance of unnecessary travel has been key in keeping COVID-19 from spreading to other parts of the country.
As a result, Finland has a small number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, with only 4,129 people infected with the virus and 199 hospitalized.
As Finland gradually reopens, the government says it is committed to preventing further spread of COVID-19, supporting health services, and protecting its people.
The school closure debate
Unlike Norway and Denmark, Finland has prolonged the reopening of its schools.
Denmark opened its schools on April 20, and Norway plans to reopen its primary schools on April 27. Finnish schools, meanwhile, are set to open for in-person instruction in approximately three weeks.
Asko Jarvinen, a physician of infectious diseases at the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS), said international studies indicate that school closures have been “the least effective way” to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“I personally believe this could be one of the first measures that could be relaxed, and that’s what many countries are doing—Germany and Norway, for example,” Jarvinen told YLE, Finland’s national public broadcasting company, on April 18.
Juho Vehviläinen, a representative of the Trade Union of Education in Finland (OAJ), questioned Jarvinen’s view on school closures.
“As a teacher, I don’t understand why it is worth risking the health of teachers, children, and their loved ones for two weeks of teachings,” said Vehvilainen in a blog post on April 21.