Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) reacted at a news conference in Helsinki on 20 December 2022. Kiuru on Thursday said Finland has started drafting stricter border controls for travellers arriving from China. (Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)


MINISTER of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) says Finland will start drafting restrictions for travellers arriving from China.

The European Union recommended on Wednesday that travellers from China be required to present a negative coronavirus test taken no more than 48 hours before departure due to the exacerbating coronavirus situation in China.

Member states are also recommended to introduce a mask mandate on all flights to and from China.

China has witnessed a surge in coronavirus infections after the government, in an abrupt policy turnabout, scrapped its hardline restrictions on 7 December, leaving both hospitals and crematoriums buckling, according to the Guardian.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday criticised China for understating coronavirus-related hospital admissions, intensive care admissions and, especially, deaths, after the country dramatically narrowed the criteria for classifying deaths from Covid-19. While China has officially recorded only 22 deaths from the coronavirus since last month, a rising number of deaths among prominent public figures has stirred up concerns among the public.

“We still do not have complete data,” Michael Ryan, the emergencies director at WHO, stated to the Guardian on Wednesday.

While Germany and Sweden have already announced testing requirements on travellers arriving from China, there is hardly a consensus on the benefits of testing arrivals, Helsingin Sanomat wrote on Thursday. Jari Jalava, a senior expert at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), stated to the newspaper that the testing requirement would have a rather insignificant, if not entirely non-existent, impact on the epidemiological situation in Finland.

“Not a single country has managed to stop new virus variants at its border during the pandemic with comparable or even stricter measures,” he reminded.

Also Japan and the US have announced stricter border controls for arrivals from China.

Timo Aronkytö, the director of the Well-being Services County of Vantaa and Kerava, on Wednesday dashed cold water on the idea of returning to mandatory large-scale testing of arrivals at Helsinki Airport.

“We’d currently be able to post exactly zero nurses to the airport to test passengers. There’s a shortage of nurses in hospitals and care homes. Transferring them to the airport would needlessly jeopardise the health of people,” he stated to Helsingin Sanomat.

“There’s no staff, there’s no space – even if the money was available. The number of arriving passengers is much higher.”

Aronkytö estimated that a possible solution could be to have border officials deny entry to arrivals from China without proof of a recent negative coronavirus test. “This wouldn’t be without holes either because you could’ve got the coronavirus certificate two days before the flight and the infection half an hour [before arrival],” he commented.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT