Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) folded a piece of paper in a government press conference in Helsinki on 14 January 2021. (Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)

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FINLAND will prohibit entry for all but essential work-related reasons, such as those linked to security of supply, as of Wednesday, 27 January.

The Finnish government announced at the end of last week it has decided to toughen entry restrictions in an attempt to reduce cross-border travel and prevent the spread of new, more transmissible variants of the new coronavirus.

The restrictions at internal borders will remain in place for 30 days, until 25 February.

The Ministry of Employment and the Economy has published a list defining duties that are deemed essential for the functioning of society and security of supply. It points out, however, that even a critical assignment does not automatically guarantee entry to the country, as the employer has to justify in a special-purpose form why the assignment is critical and why it should not be delayed.

The form must be presented to border officials in addition to other travel documents.

The entries of rescue and health care professionals, as well as elderly care professionals, will be allowed, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

The Finnish government said passengers will not be allowed to enter the country through the border-crossing point in Imatra. Changes may also be introduced to the opening hours of crossing points in western and northern Lapland. The exemptions granted to members of cross-border communities will be relinquished and the right of free cross-border movement for residents of municipalities stretching across the border refused.

Everyone crossing the border will also be recommended to observe a self-monitored quarantine.

Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) on Friday stated in a news conference that hundreds of health care staff will be stationed to border-crossing points in order to ensure everyone arriving in the country is referred to a coronavirus test. Helsinki Airport, for example, has a testing rotation of 1,100–1,200 people.

“We’ll need hundreds of people to test the arrivals, and [other] employees to help with the testing,” she was quoted as saying by Helsingin Sanomat.

Taneli Puumalainen, the head of infectious diseases control at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), reminded that no one entering the country will be forced to give a sample, although if there is reason to suspect an infection the local head of infectious diseases can order a passenger into quarantine.

All arrivals will also be instructed to observe a self-monitored quarantine. Kiuru on Friday said the duration of the quarantine has been lengthened in an attempt to make sure arriving passengers take it seriously.

THL announced earlier last week that the duration of the quarantine order issued to people who have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus has been raised from 10 to 14 days. As the quarantine order is issued by a physician of infectious diseases, the quarantined person is entitled to sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease.

Kiuru added that the government may convene to weigh up quarantine-related sanctions as soon as on Monday.

“This isn’t easy,” she said, “as it’d be easy to think that the disease situation is still tolerable in Finland. At the same time, leading experts have done plenty to propose what we should do in this situation. This whole thing is what the government is now evaluating.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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