Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson (SFP) on Monday viewed that using the coronavirus passport to limit the basic rights of the unvaccinated is not justified in the current epidemiological situation. (Emmi Korhonen – Lehtikuva)

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USING the Covid-19 passport is not justified in the current epidemiological situation, views Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson (SFP).

Henriksson on Monday reminded Helsingin Sanomat that the passport was designed as a mechanism to prevent the spread of the coronavirus during previous phases of the epidemic based on the assumption that the vaccinated were considerably more unlikely to contract the virus.

“Now with the omicron variant, it appears that vaccines don’t prevent infections but rather more severe forms of the disease,” she commented.

The law, she added, prescribes that all restrictions to the basic rights of people must be necessary and proportionate.

“The coronavirus passport limits the basic rights of those people who haven’t got vaccinated, obtained a negative test result or had the disease. The coronavirus or vaccination passport isn’t well suited for use in these circumstances because its necessity and proportionality is difficult to justify right now.”

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) on Friday similarly announced it is not in favour of either utilising the passport in its current form or converting it into a vaccination passport by making it unavailable to people who have tested negative for the virus.

Although the conversion could be justified from a medical perspective, the vaccination passport could have other significant downsides, it argued in a statement presented to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

“THL does not consider it a good option from a public health perspective because it would completely exclude the unvaccinated from services and could have a significant and permanent effect on vaccination willingness in Finland. This would be a serious adverse effect with substantial long-term ramifications,” it said.

Henriksson on Monday said the expert opinion carries considerable weight as it essentially obligates the government to present sound justification for drawing a different conclusion. “I at least haven’t yet found such justification,” she stated to Helsingin Sanomat.

She added that promoting vaccine uptake remains “absolutely crucial” for the effort to manage the epidemic but emphasised that it alone is not justification for limiting the basic rights of the unvaccinated by re-adopting the passport.

The Finnish government has suspended use of the coronavirus passport until mid-February. Although restaurants, event venues and other facilities affected by restrictions can continue to require the passport from customers, doing so does not make them exempt from the restrictions.

Henriksson viewed that the passport should nevertheless be kept in the toolkit to make sure it can be reinstituted without delay if necessary.

“It’s possible that there’s another viral mutation and we find ourselves back in the situation we were in last autumn, where using the coronavirus passport was justified,” she explained to the newspaper.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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