An overview of measures taken in Espoo to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic

On 16th March, the Government of Finland announced the implementation of the Emergency Powers Act to take measures against the spreading of Corona virus, including the closing down of schools and most government-run non-essential public facilities like theaters, libraries,  museums, etc.

Social distancing measures were put in place and citizens are urged to avoid human contact where possible. Further, on 27 March, the Parliament voted unanimously to close the borders of the Uusimaa region, in hopes of slowing down the epidemic in the rest of the country. The City of Espoo immediately began the implementation of a series of measures to help residents manage their daily lives during these extraordinary times.

E-services

The City of Espoo enhanced the provision of e-services with a dedicated website for regularly updated Corona virus information, its effects on the city’s operations and advice for Espoo residents. The platform provides comprehensive information in Finnish, Swedish and English - ranging from advice about hand hygiene, guidelines about self-treating mild respiratory symptoms at home and how to contact health services online or through phone-calls, to services for entrepreneurs, mental health support, education, culture and sports activities while in isolation.

Social and Health Services

The capacity of social and healthcare is being increased in the private and public sector, while less critical activity is reduced. Residents are urged to only visit a health centers with booked appointments. Facilities for booking video appointments with an on-call nurse have been put in place, in case of suspicion of having contracted the virus.
All patients with symptoms caused by respiratory tract infections are to be treated at Samaria Health Centre.

The Medical Helpline for when health centers are closed will function throughout.

The Coronavirus chatbot is available 24/7 on www.espoo.fi/coronavirus for questions.

Hotlines have been established for each of the units within the Social and Health Services, such as for help regarding Mental Health, Welfare Services for Families with Children and Disability Services.

Food bank services for low-income residents have been organized by the city and through charitable organizations.

Support for everyday life for senior citizens has been put into place with Nestori – Guidance and Service Counselling for Senior Citizens, offering advice and solutions to everyday situations, such as getting groceries if an elderly person’s own support network is unable to help.

A set of frequently asked questions is available on the website. For more information about city initiatives for the elderly during the pandemic, see: Nestori Guidance and Service Counselling for Senior Citizens.

School and Student Health Services has set up three helplines where public health nurses give guidance and advice to the clients of School and Student Health Services.
Schools offer contact teaching to pupils who have received special support decisions and a separate set of instructions has been published for people who have a personal assistant and for informal carers.

All Social and health services during Corona virus will handle client appointments by phone or remote communication tools unless in exceptional situations.

The HR department of the city has also set up a resource pool to support the personnel needs of the Social and Health services. City personnel that works in departments and functions closed by the corona crises (e.g. museums) are encouraged to join the resource pool. The supervisors can announce their resource needs in the pool and resources for the new services developed during the crises (e.g. food bank) have been found through the pool.

Education

Day care centers in Espoo remain open to cater to the guardians working in sectors critical to the functioning of society. However, parents who can arrange childcare at home are urged to do so, and most pupils study from home.

Schools in the City of Espoo transferred to distance education in less than 48 hours, and the transition has proceeded well despite the tight timetable. Educators have been instructed to interact with the pupils every day and have been encouraged to guide the learning process with clarity. Distance education contains usage of textbooks and other materials, as well as digital learning environments and assignments. Schools in Espoo have used services by Microsoft and Google for quite some time. The city develops the services and arranges capacity building for staff in collaboration with the contract suppliers. Many pupils have digital devices of their own. During the suspension, pupils lacking suitable devices can borrow devices from their school.

For children and young people in need of extra support, school social workers and psychologists can be reached online or by phone. In addition, youth workers have increased their presence on online communities popular among the youth, such as game communities, chat services or social media channels.

Espoo also participates in the creation of new tools and learning environments such as the Make with Espoo Learning Environments platform, where schools and companies co-create learning solutions.

The City offers lunch boxes to comprehensive school pupils and upper secondary school students who are currently studying from home.

More information regarding Distance Education is available on the website.

The Government of Finland decided in late April that pre-schools and comprehensive schools will be opened again on 14.5.2020. The schools in Espoo are currently preparing the safe transition back to school life.

Sports and Culture

The City of Espoo considers culture, art and sports important for the wellbeing of residents, and their significance is highlighted especially in these challenging times. Therefore, a variety of online culture and sports services are developed and offered to the residents by the city and its partners, such as:

  • Video instructions for a wide variety of training options, simple everyday exercise for seniors, tips on how to be active in the many surrounding nature areas in Espoo while keeping in mind the social distance, and even outdoor workout tips are published every week in the city’s social media channels. E.g. the Espoo liikkuu Instagram channel (@espooliikkuu)
  • Online streaming of live concerts by Kotona247
  • Online streaming of programs by the City’s local theaters
  • YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook are used by artists to share videos and pictures for all audiences.
  • Espoo City Library, together with the network of metropolitan area libraries, Helmet, offers vast multilingual eLibrary services and is undergoing negotiations to expand the eLibrary collections.  Digital events are arranged at local libraries.

Find more information about the variety of options available to resident of Espoo to participate in sports and cultural activities here: Enjoy Culture and Sports Online.

Information for All

In addition to the initiatives taken by The City of Espoo to cater to the international (non-Finnish/Swedish-speaking) residents and nurture the growth of an inclusive city for all, English translations of all information about Corona virus are available on the website. Further, the City of Espoo has provided essential instructions in up to 15 different languages and in sign language at Coronavirus instructions in different languages.

Helpline has been established in Espoo to guide foreign language speakers with questions about the COVID-19 pandemic. The helpline is operated as a joint service by Espoo and NGOs.

The City of Espoo is testing a Smartbot  to give coronavirus advice in 100 languages.

Support for Entrepreneurs

An information kit on services for entrepreneurs and companies during the coronavirus pandemic has been developed by the experts of Business Espoo, to inform about opportunities to get support and help find solutions, including references to the legal and financial experts in the network.

A helpline for operating support for sole entrepreneurs will be opened, and the chatbot Bertta on the Business Espoo website can also answer the most common questions.

The entire Business Espoo staff is ready to fully support local entrepreneurs in solving the challenges posed by the coronavirus, using remote connections, by email and by phone.

Entrepreneurs have also the option provided by EnterpriseEspoo, of booking an hour-long remote appointment with the business advisor for personal brainstorming and advice.

The Finnish government has promised support for companies to survive the Corona virus crisis and have appointed different levels of administration to handle the application processes and distribute the funds. The city organizations oversee the fund allocation for sole entrepreneurs. The City of Espoo opened the application process for operating support for sole entrepreneurs  - a one-off payment of EUR 2,000, intended to cover the costs that arise from business operations during the coronavirus situation on 26th April 2020.

 

Text provided by:
Milla Ovaska
Head of International Affairs/Public Relations
Mayor’s Office, City of Espoo
tel. +358 43 8244911
milla.ovaska@espoo.fi