The regional COVID-19 situation assessment workgroup of South Karelia stated at its meeting on 12 January 2021 that the epidemic is still in the acceleration phase in South Karelia. The three stages of an epidemic are the baseline, acceleration, and spreading phases.
The restriction issued by AVI, based on which gatherings must be limited to 20 people and which is applied to all indoor and outdoor events, including, as a recommendation, leisure time activities, will remain in force until the end of January. The regional situation assessment workgroup previously issued a restriction that limits private gatherings to 10 people when South Karelia entered the acceleration phase.
The situation assessment workgroup hopes that the residents will follow the instructions provided on the prevention of the coronavirus epidemic carefully in South Karelia.
– The level of concern has clearly increased among the residents. The regional situation is serious, but will remain under control if the restrictions and recommendations are followed. Restrictions enable us to continue to go to school and to do activities that are still possible in the current situation, says the chair of the regional situation assessment workgroup Tuula Karhula.
A few cases of the British variant of the COVID-19 virus have been confirmed in South Karelia, but the infected persons have been in strict quarantine. However, the new variant may change the situation relatively rapidly and make it even worse.
The long duration of the situation causes constant concern and puts the psychological resilience of people to test. Normality will be restored through various stages. It is hoped that coronavirus vaccines will ease the situation.
The vaccination of healthcare personnel started at the turn of the year. In senior homes, first vaccinations were given today, and the vaccination of residents will start, depending on the availability of the vaccines, in February at the earliest for people over 70 years of age. Eksote will contact the residents by post and by phone. We ask residents not to call our appointment numbers in matters related to the corona vaccine, as this will cause our telephone services to become congested. We will publish, in good time before the vaccinations start, a telephone number that will be used to contact the residents.
– Compared to national vaccination statistics, the situation is good in South Karelia. The schedule, which is considered to be too slow, has caused concern within the region. However, Eksote will use all the vaccines it receives immediately, and it will be possible to quicken the pace once we get more vaccines. Vaccination points will be established in all municipalities in South Karelia, once we receive vaccines that require less challenging storage conditions than the current ones to remain effective, says Karhula.
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, THL, updated its recommendation on the use of masks for citizens on 8 January 2021. From now on, it is recommended that all persons of 12 years of age or older wear a face mask. This is based on the recommendation of the World Health Organization WHO, according to which everyone aged 12 or over should follow the principles of mask recommendations for adults.
THL’s mask recommendation applies to all of Finland. During the acceleration and spreading phases of an epidemic, the mask recommendation applies to primary schools from the sixth form onwards, and to secondary and higher education institutions. In primary schools, the mask recommendation will apply to the entire form, regardless of the age of individual students.
– A mask cannot be used when exercising heavily. Therefore, a mask cannot in such situations be used sensibly and in accordance with recommendations. The use of a mask is, however, only one item on a list of precautionary measures. Restricting the size of groups, maintaining safe distances, and ensuring good hygiene in PE classes and in leisure time sport activities is of vital importance, says senior physician Sami Raasakka from Eksote’s outpatient care.
Schools and, especially, PE teachers have, subsequently, adjusted the contents of PE classes in South Karelia, observing the coronavirus situation. It is advisable to organise heavy exercise in a way that enables a safe distance to be maintained in a natural manner, such as by going skiing or jogging.
– Masks will not probably be needed during breaks, but contacts might be difficult to avoid when coming back indoors or when hanging up clothes, says Raasakka about the mask recommendation.
As South Karelia is in the acceleration phase, the currently valid restrictions applied to leisure time activities must not be relaxed.
– The pressure on leisure time operators and sport clubs to extend their operations is understandable, but it is important to keep all the previous restrictions in force in order to remain in the acceleration phase. Every increase in activities that means an increased number of contacts also increases the risk of making the situation worse or even progressing into the spreading phase. Restrictions related to leisure time activities and playing will be specified at separate meetings of the municipalities and Eksote. Operators should prepare for changes in the national and regional recommendations and in the situation, which may sometimes be rapid.
– Leisure time activities for adults must remain restricted. Sports associations seek means to enable various kinds of tournaments and match trips, but it is difficult to make decisions on the matter regionally. Eksote and the municipalities in South Karelia have requested national guidelines, but we will also discuss the matter regionally in the coming weeks, says Raasakka.
City of Lappeenranta: https://www.lappeenranta.fi/fi/Kaupunki-tiedottaa/Koronavirustilanne
City of Imatra: https://www.imatra.fi/korona
Private events must have a maximum of 10 participants.
It is recommended that secondary education shifts to remote learning starting on 7 December 2020, except for any contact teaching that is considered to be necessary by the organiser of the education. It is recommended that remote teaching be continued, at least, until 31 January 2021.
Early education and basic education will be continued as before.
The mask recommendation applies to all persons aged 12 or over, and to all school transportation.
A mask recommendation will be given to education organisers, also in school transportation. The education organiser must provide masks for children and young adults whose school transportation is their responsibility. Children and young adults who come to school by using public transport must acquire the masks themselves.
Events of the libraries will be cancelled and it is recommended that social premises, such as newspaper reading rooms, be closed. Book lending and returning activities will continue. The customers are requested to stay in the library premises only for the period of time that is necessary and to favour advance reservations. Wearing a mask in the library premises is strongly recommended.
The number of customers in museums and youth premises is limited to 20. It is recommended that youth activities be partly moved online, but youth premises can be kept open at the discretion of each municipality, when the prohibition of gatherings of over 20 persons is observed.
It is recommended that indoor and outdoor group activities for people over 20 years of age be interrupted in team and contact sports.
Indoor and outdoor group activities for children and young people can be continued subject to careful consideration, when the prohibition of gatherings of over 20 persons is observed. Risks typical of the type of sports must be observed in group activities. If leisure time activities are not disrupted, the instructions of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, based on which it must be possible to avoid close contact between the participants and the persons bringing the children to the location, must be observed.
To secure the training of professional and competitive athletes, training can be continued if it is safe and it is possible to comply with the gathering restrictions and the instructions provided on gatherings. The maximum number of spectators in a separate auditorium is 20, but only if it can be ensured that the spectators and the athletes do not come into contact with each other. The maximum number of athletes that can be present simultaneously is 20.
Travelling between Finland and Russia must be avoided.
It is recommended that all travelling to areas that are in the spreading phase be avoided. In particular, travelling should be avoided to areas where the coronavirus situation is worse than in South Karelia. Travelling to ski centres in the North of Finland and abroad should also be avoided.
It is recommended that all employers in South Karelia organise remote working in all work tasks that can be completed remotely, even temporarily. If remote working is not an option, it is recommended that the employer advices the employees to use a face mask in all work premises, even when safe distances can be maintained. Meals and coffee breaks must be staggered. Work and business trips and contact teaching events are not recommended.
The mask recommendation is valid in public transport, including school transport and taxi drivers and customers.
In other respects, the mask recommendation of the acceleration phase is applied to all persons aged 12 and over, in accordance with THL’s instructions:
• Persons who are to be tested for coronavirus when on the way to the testing location and before the result is known, if they must leave home for a necessary reason.
• Passengers arriving to Finland from a high-risk area, when they move from the point of arrival to quarantine or if they must leave home for a necessary reason.
• In primary education from the sixth form onwards, in secondary education (including upper secondary schools), and in higher education institutions.
• In all work communities, and indoor leisure time activities and voluntary work, when there are several people operating and present in the same premises.
• In public indoor premises and public events (Stores and shopping centres, post offices, banks, libraries, and other similar indoor premises / Premises used for sports and exercising and related auditoriums (at the very minimum, common premises and dressing rooms) / Swimming pools, spas, and saunas / Concert halls and other premises used for performing live music / Cinemas and other premises used for the showing of movies and other similar audio-visual works / Museums and galleries / Amusement and theme parks and tourist attractions, if they include indoor premises / Premises used for gambling and betting).
Customer service points must be equipped with plexiglass shields. Employers must provide masks or protective face shields for customer service workers who work less than 1.5 metres from other people.
The organisation of events is not recommended. During the acceleration phase, events of the maximum of 20 people can be organised if it is possible to comply with the instructions provided by THL and the Ministry of Education and Culture on safe distances and hygiene practices precisely and in all respects.
Further information for event organisers on the Regional State Administrative Agency’s website: https://avi.fi/usein-kysyttya-koronaviruksesta
Instructions for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in connection to public meetings and assembly, and in public premises: https://minedu.fi/documents/1410845/22330894/Ohje+yleis%C3%B6tilaisuuksiin+yleisiin+kokoontumisiin+ja+julkisten+tilojen+k%C3%A4ytt%C3%B6%C3%B6n+21.9.2020.pdf/bef30f76-8187-9d78-1444-bb0686c8eeb6/Ohje+yleis%C3%B6tilaisuuksiin+yleisiin+kokoontumisiin+ja+julkisten+tilojen+k%C3%A4ytt%C3%B6%C3%B6n+21.9.2020.pdf?version=1.4&t=1604562383408
The situation in the rest of Finland and the valid restrictions and recommendations of other hospital districts can be found on the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare website under Regional situation. The page can also be accessed through the link found on the Eksote website at www.eksote.fi/koronavirus
The current stage of the epidemic in South Karelia is specified by the infectious disease authorities, together with the regional COVID-19 situation assessment workgroup. The South Karelian COVID-19 situation assessment workgroup includes representatives of the South Karelia Social and Health Care District, the municipalities, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, the Regional State Administrative Agency, and the local ELY Centre. In addition to the number of and the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, the stage of the epidemic depends e.g. on the traceability of infection chains and whether the virus was acquired within or from outside the region. The epidemic situation can change rapidly locally or regionally, even when the national situation is stable. The local COVID-19 situation assessment workgroup meets once a week, unless more frequent meetings are required.
Tuula Karhula, Chair of the situation assessment workgroup, Director of the Health and Elderly Services, Eksote, tel. +358 40 194 4936, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kristiina Kapulainen, Secretary of the situation assessment workgroup, Head of Safety and Preparedness, Eksote, tel. +358 40 651 1791, email@example.com
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