Adopted at ports and airports in Helsinki on 7 January, the FINENTRY service provides people planning to travel to Finland with up-to-date instructions and circumstance-based referrals to coronavirus tests. (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)

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MEMBERS of the Finnish government will sit down today to weigh up measures to limit the entry of the new, more transmissible variants of the coronavirus to Finland.

Helsingin Sanomat on Tuesday wrote, citing its sources, that various ministries are primarily mulling over stepping up health screening efforts at borders and introducing tougher restrictions on cross-border travel.

The plan is also to draw up new instructions for regional authorities to encourage them to adopt restrictions sooner and more broadly in the event that the variants are spreading in the region.

The newspaper reported that the government is concerned especially about travel between Finland and the Baltics. Estonia, for example, finds itself in a considerably more difficult epidemiological situation than Finland. The Baltic countries also reportedly do not have detailed knowledge about how wide the new variants may have spread, despite having fairly close ties with Great Britain.

The City of Helsinki has begun exploring means to guarantee the functioning of testing at ports and, later this week, will begin testing on ferries between Finland and Estonia.

Helsingin Sanomat reported that travel rules could be toughened by, for example, introducing restrictions to family-related travel between Finland and the Baltics. Officials have also considered whether it could be possible to require proof of a negative coronavirus test or coronavirus vaccination from people travelling for work.

Travel from Estonia and Sweden to Finland is presently possible for work-related reasons without the self-monitored 10-day quarantine or testing requirements of other passengers.

About 32,000 passengers made the sea journey between Finland and Estonia in the first week of January, according to Helsingin Sanomat. It is believed that most of them made the journey for work-related reasons.

Kirsi Varhila, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, stressed to YLE that regional authorities should uphold their restrictions despite the recent decline in laboratory-confirmed infections.

“My hope is that the restrictions won’t be lifted until we have a clearer understanding of the virus mutation,” she said.

The five ruling parties are in agreement that new measures are required to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus variants, according to the public broadcasting company. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, it wrote, has identified wider transition to remote instruction, improved screening at borders and stricter conditions on work-related travel as possible means to combat the variants.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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