A downhill skier on Kemiötunturi Fell in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park in Muonio, Finnish Lapland, on 21 February 2021. (Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)

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THE MINISTRY of Social Affairs and Health is intent on holding on to travel restrictions until the end of the year on grounds of the communicable diseases act and health security at borders, suggests information obtained by YLE.

The Finnish public broadcasting company reminded yesterday that the travel restrictions are presently set to expire on 15 October.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, it wrote, will hold a briefing for hospital districts, tourism industry organisations and other stakeholders on Friday, possibly shedding light on its position on the restrictions.

Visitors to Finland are presently required to present a certificate of a full coronavirus vaccination or recovery from the coronavirus disease in the past six months. Visitors without such a certificate will be able to gain entry by testing negative for the virus in advance, either in their country of origin or upon arrival, and by taking another test within three to five days of arrival.

Decisions on the issue are eagerly awaited especially by the tourism industry in Lapland.

“The tourism field is extremely concerned about this development. Just as the world is opening up, we’re continuing with restrictions according to the current plan. Visitor flows have been low for a while and it’s been impossible to generate tourism-related business,” Sanna Kärkkäinen, the chief executive of Visit Rovaniemi, stated to YLE on Thursday.

Rovaniemi, she said, is presently expecting to welcome about 40,000 foreign visitors in December. Markku Broas, the chief physician of infectious diseases at Lapland Hospital District, has estimated that roughly 20 per cent of them could be unvaccinated, meaning they would have to get tested no later than on their fifth day in Finland.

“It’d amount to nearly 10,000 people. It’d be impossible for the testing capacity of the City of Rovaniemi,” said Kärkkäinen.

Positive signs are nevertheless emerging as the pandemic loosens its grip, according to YLE. Bookings for accommodations are coming in at a relatively solid rate and, in addition to scheduled flights, hundreds of charter flights are expected to bring visitors to Rovaniemi.

“We’ve been able to make up fairly well for the losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and right now the demand is high. We have about 70 per cent of the bookings we had in the record year of 2019,” told Kärkkäinen.

She reminded, however, that to convert the bookings into visits it is important to make sure travel procedures are smooth especially when the number of foreign visitors is expected to peak, in December.

“This is an extremely bad and critical message for the looming winter season for Lapland and Rovaniemi,” she commented on the possibility of extending travel restrictions.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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