Amendments to Communicable Diseases Act to restrict activities of restaurants and other food and beverage services businesses after lockdown
The new temporary amendments to the Communicable Diseases Act will make it possible to impose stricter restrictions on regions regarding the opening hours, licensing hours and number of customer seats of restaurants and other food and beverage service businesses. The President of the Republic approved the amendments to the Act on 16 April. The amendments will enter into force on 19 April and remain in force until 30 June 2021.
The number of customer seats in food and beverage service businesses could be limited to as little as one third of the normal capacity if the conditions laid down in the Communicable Diseases Act are met. Businesses could be required to stop serving alcoholic beverages as early as 17.00 and to close their premises by 18.00.
Further provisions on the new restrictions will be laid down separately by government decree as the epidemiological situation requires. The decree can also require customers to make reservations, for example, and place restrictions on singing and playing music in food and beverage service businesses.
More information on the government decree and the restrictions on food and beverage businesses will be provided separately.
Provisions of Communicable Diseases Act that will enter into force after lockdown on 19 April
The amendments to the Act are based on the Government’s hybrid strategy. They will make it possible to introduce necessary and proportionate restrictions on the activities of food and beverage service businesses in line with the Government’s hybrid strategy after the temporary closure of restaurants has ended. Provisions on the closure are laid down by virtue of the Act on Accommodation and Catering Operations. After the closure , provisions on the restrictions will be laid down in the Communicable Diseases Act.
More stringent restrictions may be necessary to prevent the spread of new virus variants
In May 2020, restrictions on the activities of food and beverage service businesses were temporarily added to the Communicable Diseases Act, under section 58a, in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic.
Despite the intensified hygiene measures and restrictions, major transmission chains and mass exposures originating in food and beverage service businesses were identified in January and February 2021 before the temporary closure of restaurants and other food and beverage service businesses. In some cases, nearly all customers in the establishments in question had become infected. The risk has been particularly high in businesses whose primary source of income is the sale of alcoholic beverages, but there have also been infections originating in businesses that mainly serve food.
The increased prevalence of more infectious virus variants has further heightened the risk of transmission in restaurants, bars and other premises where adults meet and gather.
Existing restrictions and general obligations remain in force
Under the Communicable Diseases Act, food and beverage service businesses must continue to follow specific hygiene requirements and ensure sufficient physical distance between customers. They are required to draw up a plan on how to implement the restrictions and obligations. The plan and the maximum permitted number of customers must be displayed where customers can see them.
The Regional State Administrative Agencies are responsible for overseeing compliance with the restrictions and obligations.
The restrictions laid down in the Act do not apply to the activities of staff restaurants or to takeaway sales of food and beverages. The restrictions on opening hours do not apply to food and beverage service businesses operating in connection with service stations or to food and beverage services on ships and airplanes travelling between Finland and other countries or operating abroad.
Ismo Tuominen, Director , [email protected]