Frequently Asked Questions

The Ministry of the Environment and agencies and institutes in its administrative branch are following the coronavirus situation and its impacts on construction, housing production, waste and wastewater management, etc. very closely. Frequently asked questions about the impacts of the coronavirus will be compiled on this page.

Impacts of the coronavirus on the construction industry

The Government has decided to restrict the traffic at borders starting on 19 March 2020. This also concerns commuting to work across the borders. The restrictions have impacts on the Finnish construction sector, which has a lot of foreign workforce.

Can construction sector employees get to work on Monday?

According to the news from the Border Guard, crossing internal borders will only be permitted for persons who, based on a permanent employment contract, work in the areas along the borders with Sweden and Norway where travel for work is common.

This means that from 22 March 2020 at 00:00 commuting to work from e.g. Estonia will not be permitted.

How will the restrictions on border traffic affect construction in Finland?

From now on border crossing will only be allowed for those working in the critical sectors that are defined in the Border Guard’s guidelines, such as healthcare and transport personnel. Construction sector employees shuttling between two countries will have to stay in their home country for a longer time. Workforce in the construction sector will decrease, causing delays at construction sites.

What proportion of the workforce comes from elsewhere?

In the Helsinki region 33% and in the whole country 20% of the workforce comes from abroad.

Will there be a shortage of labour at construction sites?

Besides the decrease in labour from abroad, the workforce will also be reduced due to the fact that many Finnish employees with families stay home with their children.

Are we going to run out of construction materials?

Goods transport continues as usual and we have construction materials in Finland, so running out of these is not the main concern. Cement is being made in Finland and we have the raw materials - what we need is employees.

What should be done at the construction sites to react to the changes?

Construction sites should prepare for possible delays and take measures concerning especially moisture protection during the construction process.

Can the deadlines and time limits of construction projects be relaxed?

The situation caused by the coronavirus is new in the construction sector as well, and it is impossible to say anything definite as yet. It is quite obvious that the constructions sites could not have predicted such drastic changes. Because of this, the Ministry has set up a working group that will follow the situation in the housing and construction sectors, together with relevant partners and operators, and give proposals for necessary measures.

Can the spread of the coronavirus be prevented through building services?

The Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations REHVA has published a summary of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in buildings. In particular, REHVA’s summary concerns the airborne transmission of virus, and the measures proposed relating to the use of buildings include the following:

  • sufficient ventilation of buildings round the clock reduces exposure to viruses.
  • as much outside air as reasonably possible should be supplied for ventilation.
  • recirculated air should not be used in ventilation.
  • window airing may be used to boost air exchange rates.
  • indoor air humidity has no effect on the virus. The virus is susceptible only for a very high relative humidity above 80%. However, very low air humidity may weaken the resistance of respiratory tracts to the virus.
  • indoor temperature has no effect on the virus. The virus is susceptible only for a temperature above 30˚C.
  • due to possible leaks, regenerative heat recovery should be avoided in buildings during epidemics.
  • cleaning of ventilation ducts has no practical effect on the spread of the virus (small particles are carried by the air flow and do not deposit easily on surfaces).
  • filters in the ventilation system have no role in terms of the spread of the virus.
  • room air cleaners may have an effect on the concentration of the virus in indoor air (provided that they have at least HEPA filter efficiency)

NB! REHVA is amending its guidance with respect to heat recovery devices and relative humidity. The information on this website will be updated when the new guidance document becomes available.

(Source: FINVAC, in Finnish)

Impacts on waste management

How to dispose usead, single-use face masks?

After use, single-use face masks, gloves and other single-use personal protective equipment must be disposed of as mixed waste that will be burned in incinerators. If there is no mixed waste container available, the mask should first be put into a plastic bag and placed into a mixed waste container when one is available. Single-use masks contain non-biodegradable materials, which is why they must not be thrown on the street, into nature, or into the toilet where they may block the drains. For more information on the use of face masks, see the recommendations to citizens issued by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.

Can the virus be transmitted via waste?

The coronavirus is primarily transmitted as a droplet and contact infection when a person coughs or sneezes. The experts consider it unlikely that the coronavirus infection would be transmitted via waste when regular good waste management practices are complied with. Outside the human body, the viability and transmission capacity of the virus weakens rapidly and the virus does not multiply in waste.

(Source: Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare)

Could waste transport staff be exposed to the coronavirus when unloading waste?

The unloading of waste at the reception hall of an incineration or other waste treatment plant poses a risk to the waste transport staff even in normal conditions. The employees are exposed to all kinds of microbes that spread into the air when waste is being unloaded. This must be taken into account in the guidelines for labour protection, and appropriate protection and good hygiene is always necessary.

Read more about the possible exposure of waste transport staff to the coronavirus on the website of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

(Source: Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, in Finnish)

Can waste containers be washed as usually during the coronavirus epidemic?

According to the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, waste containers can be washed during the coronavirus epidemic, provided that adequate protection is duly taken into account. Further instructions on washing waste containers during the coronavirus epidemic is available on the website of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

(Source: Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, in Finnish)