Sunday 9/27/20
DISAGREEMENT WITHIN CABINET

Forced quarantine announced by SDP minister, Kiuru, divides government

Minister of Justice Anna-Maija Henriksson says the matter has not even been discussed within the government.
File photo of the Minister of Justice Anna-Maija Henriksson. Photo: Lauri Heikkinen/Vnk.
File photo of the Minister of Justice Anna-Maija Henriksson. Photo: Lauri Heikkinen/Vnk.

The Government of Finland woke up on Tuesday with its members more divided than the previous day regarding the management of the Covid-19 crisis. 

The reason is a press conference held late Monday evening, in which - in the absence of Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) - her party partner in the government, the Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, Krista Kiuru, announced the toughest measures adopted to date by Finland to control the flow of travelers arriving in the country.

Kiuru, accompanied by another Social Democratic minister, Timo Harakka, headed the joint press conference to announce the Government's intention to impose compulsory quarantines and coronavirus tests for travelers from countries with high rates of infections.

The Family minister went even further and spoke of fines or up to three months in jail for those who refuse to abide by the rules.

Minister-Krista-Kiuru-by-Lauri-Heikkinen-VnkMinister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru. Photo: Lauri Heikkinen/Vnk/File photo.

Disagreement

Surprisingly, on Tuesday the loudest disagreement did not come from the opposition parties, but from within the cabinet.

Speaking to the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, Minister of Justice Anna-Maija Henriksson (Swedish People's Party) said she was "surprised" by Kiuru's announcements. She also complained that the matter has not even been discussed within the government.

“This is obviously the position of Minister Kiuru and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. This has not been discussed within the government. It is not clear to me what is all that is sought here now. No decisions have been made yet, and there will be a discussion in the government," the chairperson of the Swedish People's Party said.

Henriksson admitted that "there should be more testing at airports, ports and borders." However, she recommended to her government colleagues not to lose perspective and take into account what such a decision would mean in practice "for the society as a whole, for its people and companies."

Travelers from Sweden

There may be two reasons behind Henriksson's disappointment. First, as she explained, her party has not been consulted before doing such a strong announcement, which for her came as a "surprise."

Second, according to Helsingin Sanomat, these measures if approved would also affect travelers from Sweden. In fact, it would make it more complicated for residents of Finland's coastal areas and the islands (where many Finnish Swedes live) to communicate with the neighboring country.

In this sense, Henriksson explained that the situation in many Swedish provinces is quite good and called for "preparation to open borders, at least regionally," to those areas where the epidemiological situation is similar to Finland.

At present, Finland has set the obligation to self-quarantine on travelers from countries with an infection rate higher than 8 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last two weeks. In addition to Sweden, on that list are countries such as the United Kingdom, Spain, Russia and the United States.

There are some exceptions, such as Germany and Denmark, to which an "alternative" limit of 10 cases per 100,000 people applies.

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