Amendments to Communicable Diseases Act approved — regional authorities to have more means to curb COVID-19
The amendments to the Communicable Diseases Act have been approved, and they will enter into force on 22 February 2021. They will strengthen the possibilities of local and regional authorities to take proactive and swift measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Most of the amendments will remain in force until 30 June 2021.
Under the amended Act, the authorities can introduce regional restrictions on business and leisure activities when this is necessary to prevent the spread of the epidemic. Any obligations and restrictions will thus be based on avoiding physical contact between people.
Stricter measures to be introduced gradually when the COVID-19 epidemic accelerates
In line with the action plan for implementing the hybrid strategy to curb the COVID-19 epidemic, the measures are introduced gradually so that obligations and restrictions can be tightened again if earlier measures prove to be insufficient.
At the baseline of the epidemic, general hygiene measures are binding in all areas where customers and participants are present. Customers or participants must have the opportunity to clean their hands, and enhanced cleaning measures must be put in place. Customers and participants must also be provided with guidelines on how to prevent the spread of infections.
In the acceleration phase, regional authorities can decide that activities must be arranged in such a way that no close contacts are created. To ensure that their activities are safe, businesses can choose the best way to operate so that customers can avoid close contact with one another in practice. This can mean space arrangements, staggered timetables or, alternatively, restricting the number of customers. The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency can also decide to restrict the number of passengers by a maximum of 50 per cent during the acceleration phase.
In the community transmission phase, the municipality or the Regional State Administrative Agency can close businesses or other facilities that are intended for customers and participants for a period of two weeks. This can only be applied to those facilities and spaces defined in the Act that may generate significant infection chains. These include indoor and other sports facilities, public saunas and swimming pools, dance halls, amusement parks, indoor playgrounds, and public space in shopping centres.
The regulation will not be applied to private and family life activities.
More permanent amendments to regulation on isolation and access to information
More permanent amendments were made to the regulation on isolation, for example. In future, isolation could take place in the person’s own home, for example, instead of a health care unit.
The amended Act also specifies the regulation on the right of the authorities to obtain information and on executive assistance.
Amendments to be taken into account in the action plan for implementing the hybrid strategy
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will update the action plan for implementing the Government’s hybrid strategy to take account of the new powers at different phases of the epidemic. The Ministry will guide and support the regional communicable disease authorities in the application of these powers.
Kirsi Ruuhonen, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. +358 295 163 239, [email protected]