The sounds of melodious young voices will return to schools in the Finnish capital from Monday after education chiefs relaxed a coronavirus ban on singing in class.
“The children can sing again,” Outi Salo, primary education lead at Helsinki City said.
“But they can’t hold hands yet, they will have to keep to social distancing,” she added.
Since last winter, pupils in Helsinki have had to hum rather than sing “Happy Birthday” to their classmates. Music lessons remained singing-free after health authorities warned that the practice could further the spread of Covid-19.
Under new guidelines sent to headteachers, singing should take place towards the end of the lesson, newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported.
Classrooms should be ventilated afterwards, and children over 12 should wear a mask.
Music “is a natural way for children to learn”, music teacher Titta Lampela told the paper in August, when dozens of music teachers petitioned the city’s education authority to overturn the ban.
Critics of the measure pointed out that neighbouring municipalities were allowing their schoolchildren to sing provided they adhered to social distancing – and that singing in Helsinki’s bars and karaoke clubs had been permitted since June.
Finland has recorded over 136,000 coronavirus infections and 1,000 deaths in the country of 5.5 million, and has maintained some of the EU’s lowest incidence rates throughout the pandemic.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin has said the country’s last coronavirus restrictions will be lifted once 80 per cent of over-12s have been fully vaccinated, a target expected to be reached by mid-October.