Saturday 11/28/20
CORONAVIRUS

Travel restrictions extended as Helsinki area enters spreading stage

The community transmission stage is the worst scenario foreseen by health authorities, which are concerned about the development in Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo and Kauniainen.

Finland on Thursday surpassed the barrier of 20,000 diagnosed cases of Covid-19.

File photo of passengers wearing face masks at Helsinki Railway Station. Photo: Heikki Saukkomaa/dpa.
File photo of passengers wearing face masks at Helsinki Railway Station. Photo: Heikki Saukkomaa/dpa.

Finland on Thursday experienced a day full of new milestones in the development of the epidemic.

On the one hand, the country reported 351 new infections, a not very high number compared to the records of other countries, but high for what has been the development of the epidemic in the Nordic country. Those new infections brought to 20,286 the total number of cases reported since the epidemic began.

On the other hand, the Finnish government learned about the latest assessment of the epidemiological situation published by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, stating that the current situation could "rapidly deteriorate" throughout the country and also warning of an "alarming" increase in infections among the elders.

Helsinki entered spreading stage

In the afternoon, when it seemed that things could no longer get worse, Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori wrote on Twitter that Helsinki and its metropolitan area had just entered the third phase of the epidemic, called the community transmission stage or the spreading stage.  

This is the worst scenario foreseen by Finnish health authorities, which are currently concerned about the spread of the coronavirus in municipalities such as Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo and Kauniainen.

According to the mayor, the local authorities in the region will announce new restrictions, recommendations or other actions in relation to this new scenario on Friday.

The decision of raising the alert level in Helsinki-Uusimaa may be justified in view of the incidence of Covid-19 cases in the capital area (113.4 per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 2 weeks), which doubles that of the the country as a whole (54.1 cases per 100,000 residents), according to data from the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The highest incidence of cases in the country (115.3 per 100,000 people) is now in the hospital district of Länsi-Pohja, which borders Sweden.

Entry restrictions extended

Shortly before that, based on the infection rates and the epidemiological evaluation of the Ministry of Health, the government had decided to extend until 13 December the current strict entry restrictions to the country.

The coalition government led by the Social Democrat Prime Minister Sanna Marin has imposed restrictions on travelers from any country with more than 25 registered cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last two weeks, a figure that not even Finland itself meets.

These strict limits are keeping the country virtually isolated from the rest of Europe and have placed some industries such as tourism and aviation on the edge of the collapse.

Still, the government said there are "big differences" in the epidemic situation between Finland and the rest of Europe which do not allow a relaxation of the restrictions.

Exceptions for neighboring countries

In practice this means that the restrictions imposed on all Schengen countries are maintained, except for the communities in the areas bordering Norway and Sweden or for workers coming from Sweden and Estonia. 

Apart from these exceptions, the current restrictions with the states of the Schengen area only allow return traffic to Finland, transit traffic, business travel and some trips due to force majeure.

Immigrants are recommended 10 days of voluntary quarantine, which can be shortened if the person takes two voluntary coronavirus tests.

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