FINLAND should do away with its quarantine requirements for arriving passengers who have a certificate of being vaccinated against, testing negative for or recovering from the disease caused by the new coronavirus, demands a group of cities, companies, employer groups and trade unions with a vested interest in tourism.
If Finland continues to insist on entry restrictions stricter than the rest of the EU, the group warned, it could stem fledgling tourism flows and delay recovery from the pandemic-induced crisis.
“The quarantine requirement is a really major obstacle to the recovery of tourism,” Topi Manner, the chief executive of Finnair, stated to Helsingin Sanomat on Monday.
In addition to the majority state-owned airline, the plea has been signed by Finavia, the Finnish Hospitality Association (Mara), Service Union United (PAM), and the cities of Espoo, Vantaa and Helsinki.
People arriving in Finland are almost without exception presently required to observe at least a three to four-day self-quarantine. The country continues to recommend that arriving passengers observe a two-week quarantine that can be shortened by testing negative for the virus 72 hours after arrival.
The requirement applies to passengers from all countries with a 14-day incidence of coronavirus infections of at least 25 per 100,000 inhabitants. In Europe, Iceland is currently the only country with a lower incidence of infections.
Kimmo Mäki, the chief executive of Finavia, said Finland continuing to “go against the current” in terms of re-opening tourism would leave the industry in an intolerable situation.
“Imposing a quarantine requirement on passengers arriving in the country with an advance test certificate would heavily inhibit travel to Finland, all the while others are commencing travel in a health safe way,” said Timo Lappi, the managing director of Mara.
The tourism industry provides employment to about 140,000 people and contributed 2.7 per cent of the gross domestic product of Finland in 2018, according to the group.
The group highlighted that the quarantine requirement has been lifted for passengers arriving from low-risk countries with a coronavirus certificate by all but three countries in the Schengen Area. Germany, for example, joined the list recently and requires quarantines exclusively from people arriving from higher-risk countries to prevent the spread of new virus variants.
Also Spain has recently begun relaxing its restrictions.
The European Union last week took a major step toward the resumption of tourism. The European Parliament and European Council on Thursday reached a provisional agreement on a certificate to facilitate free movement within the 27-country bloc. The certificate, available to citizens for free either in a digital or paper format, attests that its holder has been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from the disease.
Legislators have voiced their hope that the certificate provides a boost to the tourism sector as soon as this summer.
The provisional agreement would allow member states to impose their own quarantine rules. Manner on Monday said to Helsingin Sanomat that a quarantine should be a requirement only for people arriving from high-risk countries.
He also expressed his disappointment with the lack of a clearly defined strategy for lifting travel restrictions in Finland. “Finland needs a clear roadmap for opening tourism,” he underlined.
Relaxing the restrictions is justified, he added.
“The risk groups have already been vaccinated once and will get the second injection in June. Also hospital capacity has been secured. The situation is completely different from last summer,” he explained.
Finnair has estimated that European travel could start its gradual recovery in the latter stages of the summer. Manner stressed that it is critical that any necessary legislative amendments are drafted without delay to ensure the recovery also benefits Finland.
The group also encouraged the government to oblige transport companies, such as airlines and cruise operators, to check the certificates of passengers in the country of departure to make sure the checks do not place a burden on municipal authorities in Finland.
The Ministry of Employment and the Economy has predicted that the pandemic could inflict revenue losses of up to 15 billion euros on Finland in 2020–2021.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT