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New restrictions to be imposed on opening and licensing hours of restaurants, cafes and bars from 8 October to curb spread of COVID-19

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 30.9.2020 12.05 | Published in English on 30.9.2020 at 17.45
Press release 223/2020

New restrictions will be imposed on the opening and licensing hours of food and beverage service businesses in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic. From (and including) Thursday 8 October, food and beverage service businesses may be open between 4.00 and 1.00. From 8 October, alcohol sales may begin no earlier than 9.00 and must end no later than 24.00.

The government decree on the restrictions will enter into force on 1 October 2020, but food and beverage service businesses will have a one-week transition period to prepare for the new restrictions. The restrictions will therefore enter into force on 8 October 2020. The temporary decree will remain in force until 31 October 2020. 

No new restrictions will be placed on the number of customer seats in food and beverage service businesses. The normal number of customers or persons currently allowed in the serving licence or building plan may be present in the interior premises of a food and beverage service business.  Food and beverage service businesses must still have in place an infection reduction plan for their operations and to follow the hygiene requirements set for premises. All customers will still be required to have their own seats.

Restrictions are based on the objectives of the Government’s hybrid strategy

The Government’s hybrid strategy aims to curb the COVID-19 epidemic effectively while minimising the adverse impact on people, businesses, society and the exercise of fundamental rights. 

The Government will monitor the development of the epidemic in different regions during October. Additional restrictions on food and beverage services can also be introduced quickly in areas entering the acceleration phase. In this context, the Government has also assessed possible options for providing cost support to different sectors whose operating conditions have been most affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. 

Information collected during pandemic used when considering restrictions

The provisions on the restrictions were prepared on the basis of the international and national information collected during the COVID-19 pandemic. The information indicates that the risk of contracting the disease at food and beverage service establishments is real. 

Situations where a large number of people have become exposed to the virus at food and beverage service establishments, even in Finland, make it difficult to trace and quarantine those exposed. This considerably increases the risk of the epidemic accelerating. 

Tightening of restrictions to be decided separately every two weeks

The restrictions imposed on food and beverage service businesses under the decree will be tightened if an area enters the acceleration phase. This means that food and beverage service businesses would need to close no later than 23.00 and alcohol sales would end at 22.00. In addition, restrictions would be placed on the numbers of customers of food and beverage service businesses so that no more than half of the maximum number of customers would be allowed inside the establishment.

If an area enters the acceleration phase of the epidemic, this will be confirmed by a statement from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. The statement will take into account the views of the situational picture and modelling group set up by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the regional cooperation group of the hospital district in question on the epidemiological situation in the area. Based on the statement, the Government will, if necessary, decide on tighter restrictions every two weeks. Information on such restrictions will be provided separately.

Inquiries:

Ismo Tuominen, Senior Ministerial Adviser [email protected]