The Finnish Government decided on Friday 11 September to lift some of the restrictions imposed on border traffic.
In a context of a general increase in the number of coronavirus cases in Europe, the government realized that the previously imposed limitations are too strict and it is increasingly difficult for other countries to comply. The measures that were introduced as self-protection against other countries hardest hit by the pandemic led to a self-isolation that is causing irreparable damage to the Finnish economy, sinking entire sectors such as tourism, air and sea traffic.
In an attempt to save the tourism industry, which especially in Lapland faces a very difficult winter season, from Saturday 19 September traveling to Finland will be less complicated.
The new general rule is that restrictions on entry will be lifted between Finland and the European countries where the incidence of new cases does not exceed 25 infections per 100,000 inhabitants during the previous 14 days. Until now, the limit value has been 8 cases (sometimes 10) per 10,000 inhabitants, a limit that only a dozen of countries in the world met.
As of 19 September, restrictions on entry will be lifted between Finland and Iceland, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Germany and Cyprus, as well as for residents of Australia, Canada and Japan. So far, it has been been already possible to travel from Estonia, Lithuania and Slovakia and cross-border movements have been also permitted for residents of the Swedish and Norwegian border communities.
Regarding the external borders (with non-Schengen countries), restrictions had already been lifted also for residents of Georgia, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Corea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.
In practice, this means that people from all the above listed countries can come to Finland on holiday or recreational trips without having to undergo quarantines or tests, according to the Ministry of the Interior.
Countries on the black list
But not all are good news. Some countries, including the largest in Europe (except Germany), will continue to be included in the black list and their citizens are in principle not welcome because they have too high an incidence of the virus.
This is the case of the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Austria, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, France, Slovenia, Switzerland, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Hungary. In all of them, the incidence of the disease exceeds the threshold of 25 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The list will be reviewed weekly and updated if necessary, Finnish authorities say.
On 11 September, the government decided to reintroduce restrictions between Finland and Italy and Hungary.
Charter and group tours from the Schengen and EU countries with infection rates higher than 25 cases per 100,000 could also be exempt from quarantine or virus tests if the tour lasts at most 72 hours.
Restrictions for non-Schengen countries
Outside of the Schengen area, restrictions remain in force for people from the United States, Russia, China and Ireland, among others.
That does not mean that its citizens cannot travel at all, but they need to have a good reason to enter the country (for example because of work or because they are Finnish residents). They might be required to take a coronavirus test or to undergo quarantine upon arrival at an airport or port.
Government says internal border control (within Schengen area) is set to continue in Finland until a new testing-based approach is introduced on 23 November.
Regardless of these limitations, according to the Article 9 of the Finnish Constitution, Finnish citizens (and permanent residents) have the right to return to Finland or to leave the country if they wish. However, the Government still recommends to avoid unnecessary travel.
Finnish residents returning from a country with higher infection rates could be exempt from self-isolation if they undergo a coronavirus test on arrival and take a second test after at least 72 hours.