Among Finns, the corona virus has created a great desire to assist. For example, Facebook groups and Nappi Naapuri service have received a large amount of offers to help those who are isolated and/or in quarantine and in need of help for running errands. In addition to normal social services, this kind of additional help can be most significant. It can ensure that no one will starve or run out of needed medications. Such approaches can also generate additional methods for helping such as listening services.

Internet services, however, do not reach most of the elderly. Due to this fact, people have been advised to communicate by placing offers-to-help notices on notice boards and in stairways. Many municipalities, parishes and non-governmental organizations are getting ready to meet risk groups’ needs during the epidemic. They already know an ample number of people belonging to risk groups and have some resources to map out people in need.

The potential to help is enormous. When running errands, it is important to adhere to official hygiene and asepsis directions. Instead of a volunteer operating fully independently, organized and coordinated volunteer operators can better assure the safety of the operation and give guidance to their volunteers.

As the responsibility to give rightful directions is on the authorities, volunteers can carry out their assistance in good spirits. It is awesome to see peoples’ willingness to help during this state of emergency. Now, that the spirit of volunteering is on its highest, it is important to offer people ways to help and participate. This strengthens the society and creates a feeling of security during this time when many of the everyday norms have changed.

We in Citizen Forum deem it important to reaffirm that the help offered is safe and that the helpers can do it in good spirits. Citizen Forum, The Church Resources Agency, and Siskot ja Simot together with their partners in cooperation have composed general instructions for volunteers. The instructions are based on published current data and recommendations by Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and Finnish Food Authority as well as organizations’ instructions.

General instructions for assistance during the coronavirus epidemic

1. Even though your willingness to help is great, do not volunteer if you are sick or you have even the slightest symptoms of respiratory infection (cold, cough, fever, muscle pain, sore throat etc.). Do not offer to help if you have recently returned from abroad or your family member is known to have coronavirus contagion. Comply with the official quarantine instructions. Even though you might not have coronavirus, other infections can also be life-threatening to risk groups.

2. Do not volunteer if you belong to a risk group (people over the age of 70 years, people with primary diseases etc.). Individuals belonging to risk groups need to stay home and avoid physical contact with others. This is not a punishment or a way to rank people, but an intention to protect you and others from the coronavirus

3. If you participate in activities of a municipality, a city or a congregation, follow the given instructions. If you think that the instructions are insufficient or you have questions, let the organizer know!

4. If you participate in the volunteer work provided by a Facebook-group, a neighborhood, or a condominium, remember to mind your hygiene and follow official instructions such as social distancing when running errands.

5. When offering to help, introduce yourself by your whole name. Tell him/her your phone number and your address. This adds to your credibility and increases the feeling of security. It also makes it more difficult for the wrong kind of operators to act. To minimize the risk of contamination, inform the person needing help that for security reasons you cannot come inside. Shopping list and purchases will be left outside the door to avoid physical contact.

6. Ask for a shopping list from the person needing help and write it down. Ask how he/she wants to pay for them. It would be best not to handle cash at all. Instead it would be good to have an agreement with the store, to pay in advance, to have them to send a bill or to use a bank transfer/Mobile Pay. This way you don’t have to visit him/her prior to shopping.

7. If cash must be used, ask to have the exact change ready in an envelope. Remember that you are not allowed to hold onto other person’s bank card so do not take that responsibility!

8. If you are going to pharmacy, advise the person you are helping to have cash or arranged payment ready for the medications, a note with the names of medications needed and KELA-card for prescription drugs. He/she has to have all this ready in an envelope or a bag.

9. Make arrangements with the person you are helping about the time when you are going to pick up the money and KELA-card (if needed). Arrive at the door at predetermined time and communicate in a predetermined way that you have arrived (by phone, knocking the door). Take the money with you. Should he/she step outside, remember social distancing. Remember that you are not allowed to hold onto other person’s bank card so do not take that responsibility!

10. Wash your hands with soap before leaving your home. Behind this link is an instructional video of Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare. If possible, take hand sanitizer with you and use disposable gloves. Put on the gloves when arriving at the door of the person you are helping before you accept the money and KELA-card.

11. Avoid touching your face. Do not handle your phone or keys in the store. Avoid touching elevator buttons, door handles or other items handled by many people. If needed, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.

12. Ordinary mask does not protect its user against airborne diseases. The mask might protect its user against respiratory droplets and is mainly used on people already affected, not to prevent from becoming infected. If you are healthy, you can run errands without wearing the face mask.

13. The best way to avoid respiratory infections is to administer good hand- and cough hygiene. Protect your mouth and nose with a disposable handkerchief when sneezing or coughing. If you don’t have a handkerchief, sneeze or cough into the upper part of your blouse sleeve, not to your hands. Discard the used handkerchief immediately. If possible, wash or sanitize your hands or change your disposable gloves.

14. Shop according to the list. If the store is missing a listed item, call and ask what to replace it with. Use disposable gloves if possible. Coronavirus transmission mainly occurs by respiratory droplets sneezed or coughed by an infected person. It is also possible that the virus is transmitted via a touch. Infections from surfaces, groceries or goods have not been noticed so far. You can use your own judgement with baked goods, salad bars, and pick and mix candies. Remind the person you are helping to wash and peel fruits and vegetables.

15. Remember to maintain the cold chain. Deliver the groceries right away.

16. Place the change/bill and receipt in the same envelope/small bag you received earlier. Put it into the shopping bag. Leave the shopping items at the door and call him/her to let know that you have returned. Remind him/her not to open the door before you have left. You can wait at a safe distance to make sure that he/she has received the goods.

17. Remove your disposable gloves after delivering the goods. If possible, sanitize your hands. Wash your hands thoroughly once at home.

Text: Marjo Salmela and Satu Puolitaival

Translation: Pirkko Nurmikko

References:

1. Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL): https://thl.fi/fi/web/infektiotaudit-ja-rokotukset/ajankohtaista/ajankohtaista-koronaviruksesta-covid-19/usein-kysyttya-koronaviruksesta-covid-19

2. Nappi Naapuri: https://www.nappinaapuri.fi/events/koronapu

3. Siskot ja Simot: siskotjasimot.fi

4. Finnish Red Cross, District of Helsinki and Uusimaa: https://rednet.punainenristi.fi/node/59317

5. THL: https://thl.fi/fi/web/infektiotaudit-ja-rokotukset/taudit-ja-torjunta/infektioiden-ehkaisy-ja-torjuntaohjeita/hengityksensuojaimien-kaytto

6. THL: https://thl.fi/fi/web/infektiotaudit-ja-rokotukset/taudit-ja-torjunta/infektioiden-ehkaisy-ja-torjuntaohjeita/kasienpesu-ja-yskiminen

7. Finnish Institute of Occupational Health: https://hyvatyo.ttl.fi/koronavirus/ohje-suu-ja-nenasuojus

8. Finnish Food Authority: https://www.ruokavirasto.fi/henkiloasiakkaat/tietoa-elintarvikkeista/kasittely-ja-sailyttaminen/usein-kysyttya-covid-19-koronaviruksesta-ja-elintarvikkeista/