Summer is upon us and the vacation season will provide a long-awaited break after this rather exceptional spring. Finland, along with the rest of Europe, is gradually lifting its restrictions, and the effects will be closely monitored. Although the coronavirus epidemic in Finland seems to be slowing down, there is no effective vaccine or treatment, and no one knows what the situation will be like in August or September.
We are all hoping to be able to start the autumn semester normally on our campuses. However, should the epidemic take a turn for the worse and new restrictions be imposed, we need to prepare for it advance.
In practice, we have three possible scenarios: life on campus will return to normal, work and studies will take place in small groups prioritising the most important activities, or campuses will remain closed as in March-May 2020. We will monitor the situation, follow guidelines by authorities throughout the summer and send a collective e-mail by Monday 3 August 2020 providing further instructions on how work in the autumn will start.
The coronavirus task force has, based on discussions with different parties involved, decided to prepare for the autumn as follows:
The vice president for education will lead planning related to the prioritisation of teaching in case authorities issue restrictions on student group sizes. Based on these plans, facility arrangements on campuses will be thought through with those in charge of such matters.
If needed, LAB will prioritise the orientation of new students to give them the best possible start to their studies. In addition, we will focus on key laboratory assignments and teaching that requires special facilities, machines and devices. We will aim to arrange tests and final exams on campus. We will do our best to enable students to graduate according to plan.
Incoming and outgoing exchange students should prepare for the autumn according to plan. If travel is possible and campuses are open, student exchange and international work placements will take place normally. If there are restrictions in Finland or the target countries, incoming and outgoing exchange students will be informed of them without delay.
RDI that requires access to the campus or the facilities of partners will be prioritised. In addition, possibilities to implement and prepare for international RDI projects will be reviewed. Henri Karppinen, Vice President for RDI, will be in charge of these matters at LAB.
To support our employees, we will utilise our experiences from this spring and input from union representatives and labour protection representatives. Ergonomics, communication, leadership and well-being will be in the forefront if restrictions are imposed again.
One aspect that we need to consider is contact tracing to identify transmission chains on campus. The need may arise if infections are identified in our community. We are waiting for news on whether a national tracking app will be adopted. If not, we will figure out another way to help authorities to track individuals, taking privacy protection into consideration.