Traveling freely and for whatever reason between Finland and neighboring countries in times of coronavirus was only a brief illusion.
On Thursday, the Finnish government decided to tighten travel restrictions and reintroduce border controls with Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Iceland, Germany and further afield Slovakia, as the pandemic accelerates both in Europe and at home.
Outside the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA), the new restrictions will also apply for those arriving from Georgia, Canada and Tunisia. The new rules will take effect on Monday 28 September.
In practice, this means that passengers arriving from the aforementioned countries will have to undergo a two-week voluntary self-quarantine, which basically means avoiding the use of public transport and visits to workplaces, schools and kindergartens. If necessary, authorities can impose obligatory quarantine.
The decision to limit travel again will be like a jar of cold water over the tourism industry, which desperately seeks to prevent the total bankruptcy of thousands of companies.
The situation is especially dramatic in the cases of trips between Finland and Sweden, Norway and Iceland, which only began to be allowed last Saturday 19 September. Less than a week have taken these countries to exceed the threshold of 25 infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the previous 14 days, which Finland has set as the limit for unrestricted border crossing.
According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the current incidence in Sweden is 36.8 cases per 100,000 inhabitants; Norway (28.7), Iceland (90.5), Germany (27.3), Estonia (33.8) and Slovakia (43.7) also clearly exceed this threshold.
At the time of writing this article, Finland's incidence was 15.5 per 100,000, according to the ECDC website.
From 28 September, residents of Finland will only be able to travel to 7 European states without being subjected to restrictions on return. According to the Ministry of the Interior, the countries still rated as safe are Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Poland, San Marino and the Vatican. The list will be reviewed weekly.
Entry restrictions will also remain in effect for the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Austria, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, France, Slovenia, Switzerland, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
However, the government will allow some exceptions, such as crossing borders with Sweden and Estonia for work reasons without the need for quarantine, as well as cross-border land traffic between the border communities of Finland, Sweden and Norway.
Outside Europe, the only countries free of travel restrictions are Australia, Japan, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand and Uruguay.
Under Article 9 of the Finnish Constitution, any resident of Finland always has the right to leave the country or return whenever they wish. However, the government recommends avoiding unnecessary travel.