Friday 12/4/20
EPIDEMIC

Finland prepares legal changes to relax strict travel limits

According to the proposal, the quarantine requirement could be imposed on people from countries with at least twice the incidence rate of infections as Finland.

Quarantine would not apply to people travelling for compelling personal reasons, diplomats; transport workers and persons travelling by air via Finland, provided that they do not leave the airport.

Passengers with their luggage at the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport upon their arrival. Photo: Markku Ulander/dpa.
Passengers with their luggage at the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport upon their arrival. Photo: Markku Ulander/dpa.

Finland is preparing legal changes to relax a bit the strict restrictions imposed on travelers from other countries.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is requesting opinions on the draft government proposal for temporarily amending the Communicable Diseases Act to curb the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic in cross-border traffic.

Government says the aim of the proposal is to focus measures, based on a risk assessment, on travelers arriving in Finland at airports, ports and land borders. 

One of the objectives would be to support the tourism industry by facilitating the entry of more people to the country. However, it seems that due to time constraints in Parliament's calendar, these changes will not be approved in time to save the Christmas tourism campaign. Many entrepreneurs in the Lapland tourism industry have been calling for these changes before Christmas.

The current travel limits in Finland place restrictions on people where the incidence rate of the disease is 25 per 100,000 in the previous two weeks. A limit that not even Finland meets. According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Finland's infection rate is now 52.9 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Up to twice as many cases

The proposal establishes the cases in which a physician or the health authority can place a traveler under quarantine for a maximum of 10 days. These can happen if they come from a country where the incidence of coronavirus cases -this is the number of cases relative to the population during the last 14 days- is at least double than in Finland.

People can also be quarantined if they come from countries where the rate of infections in the general population can be estimated to be at least 1 per 1,000 people and if authorities consider that they pose a significant risk of spreading the disease upon arrival. 

Cases in which quarantine is not applied

According to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, people arriving in Finland would not be placed under quarantine if they could present a reliable certificate by a physician stating that they have recovered from a laboratory-confirmed case of Covid-19 or that they have been vaccinated against the disease.

Furthermore, they could not be placed under quarantine if their stay in Finland lasted for a maximum of three days, they presented a reliable certificate of a negative Covid-19 test taken up to 48 hours prior to their journey or if they take a test immediately upon their arrival in the country and the result is negative.

Similarly, the quarantine would not be imposed if their stay in Finland lasted for 4–6 days and they could present a reliable certificate of a negative test taken up to 48 hours prior to their journey and they were willing to take a second test immediately upon their arrival in the country.

Provisions on high-risk countries and regions would be laid down by government decree. The decree would remain in force up to one month at a time.

Border communities

Quarantine would not be imposed on people travelling regularly between border communities for the purposes of work, whether as an employee, an entrepreneur or a self-employed person, or studies or for securing their income.

The exceptions would thus apply to land border crossings between Finland and Sweden and between Finland and Norway and to travel by air or sea between Finland and Sweden and between Finland and Estonia.

The quarantine requirement would not apply to diplomats; drivers operating in passenger and freight transport in the logistics and transport sector; on-duty crew members of vessels, aircraft and trains and their change crew; and persons travelling by air via Finland, provided that they do not leave the airport.

Similarly, quarantine would not be imposed on people travelling for compelling personal reasons, for example people travelling to meet their underage children. In exceptional cases, travellers must be able to provide, on request, the authority in charge of preventing communicable diseases in the municipality or the joint municipal authority for the hospital district with the necessary information. 

Comments on the draft proposal can be submitted between 10 and 23 November. Following the consultation round, the government intends to submit its proposal to Parliament on 3 December.

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