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Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo (Greens) spoke to reporters before the government’s meeting on cross-border travel and public events at the House of the Estates in Helsinki on Thursday, 11 June 2020. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)

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THE GOVERNMENT of Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) on Thursday announced its plan to ease restrictions on cross-border travel.

The government revealed it will ease the restrictions by lifting internal border controls for certain modes of transport, including flights and regular ferry services, for six nearby countries: Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania and Norway.

The decision is to be confirmed today and come into effect on Monday, 15 June.

Internal border controls will contrastively remain in place for travel between Finland and other Schengen countries, including Sweden, until 14 July. Although the controls will remain in place, return traffic, work-related travel and other necessary travel will be allowed at the borders, the government reminded.

Controls will similarly remain in place on the external border with Russia.

People arriving from other than the six aforementioned countries will continue to be instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days and notified of the various hygiene, social distancing and treatment instructions in place in Finland. Moving between a place of residence and employment, as well as to take care of necessary chores, will remain allowed during the self-monitored quarantine.

“In the future, [they] will also be provided instructions for installing the mobile app [for tracing contacts],” the government said.

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Although the border controls will remain in place, the government reminded that everyone has the right to leave Finland.

“However, the government still recommends avoiding unnecessary travel to […] countries except for Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Each and every one of us can help to prevent the spread of the coronavirus epidemic by complying with travel recommendations and hygiene instructions.”

Sweden a pain point

Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo (Greens) on Thursday drew particular attention to the epidemiological situation in Sweden, saying it “unfortunately” continues to preclude the government from lifting the restrictions on travel from Sweden.

“I want to underscore that this decision wasn’t made lightly but out of absolute necessity,” she stated in a press conference.

“Sweden is a very important neighbour and partner country for Finland. Finnish and Swedish citizens also have close ties. The government is monitoring the situation continuously and will lift the restrictions as soon as that’s possible in light of the epidemiological situation. Right now, the government’s primary responsibility is to protect Finland’s residents from the spread of the coronavirus.”

Ohisalo added that she appreciates the frustration of people living close to the border.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (Greens) reminded that the situation will be re-examined in a couple of weeks and that the epidemiological situation may change notably over such a period.

“I’m confident Sweden will also be able to accomplish this [bring the situation under control], but at the moment we’re still talking about a few weeks,” he said.

The decision came as a disappointment to Sweden.

Swedish Minister of the Interior Mikael Damberg admitted to Dagens Nyhetern that Sweden would have liked to see a different decision from Finland. The European Commission, he reminded,  recommended that member states remove travel restrictions from their internal borders starting from mid-June.

“We all have an obligation to act in a way that doesn’t undermine Nordic co-operation,” he stated.

Ban on large events specified

The Finnish government yesterday also announced it has clarified its decision to allow the organisation of large public events as of 1 July.

Events held in enclosed outdoor spaces will continue to have a maximum limit of 500 attendees until 31 July. The limit, however, can be exceeded in certain cases, such as events organised at outdoor venues with several sections or demarcated areas that enable the organiser to place the attendees in separate areas each with a capacity of no more than 500.

“A clear buffer zone must be arranged between each viewing section in use. Each section must have its own access routes, services […] and event staff,” the government listed in a press release.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi

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