FINLAND will impose restrictions on travellers from China, the ministerial working group in charge of managing the coronavirus epidemic decided on Thursday.
Travellers from China will be required to present a negative coronavirus test taken no earlier than 48 hours before their departure for Finland. Crew and passengers on flights to and from the country will also be required to wear face masks.
Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) on Friday conceded on YLE’s A-studio that the controls are not a means to prevent new coronavirus variants from entering Finland, but rather a means to “buy time” before more accurate data on the spread of the virus is made available by Beijing.
“We’ll be able to buy time before this information is handed over from China,” she said.
“It’s about [finding out] what kind of a virus we should expect on top of our current burden. The burden on hospitals is at a pretty high level. EU countries are naturally concerned how big of an additional burden there’ll be.”
Kiuru told Helsingin Sanomat earlier that she is worried about the lack of data on coronavirus infections, hospitalisations and deaths in China.
“The EU has called for more information from China. Infections are being significantly under-reported in China. We have no information on the burden on the country’s hospital system. It’d provide us important new information on how the new variant is behaving,” she commented to the daily newspaper.
She also revealed that the mask mandate is already being implemented by Finnair, the Finnish majority state-owned airline. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and Ministry of the Interior are presently looking into how quickly the testing requirement could be implemented in practice.
“Early next week will tell how quickly we can start requiring negative test results,” told Kiuru. “The upside of advance testing is that it doesn’t strain Finnish health care. We naturally hope we won’t be the last country that implements the advance testing requirement. The delay would channel air travel where the requirement […] is not in effect. The EU moving as a united front is important.”
Kiuru admitted that the timetable is tight but necessary due to the extent of infections detected in air travellers arriving from China to the EU. “The information is pretty shocking. At worst, 30–50 per cent of air travellers may have tested positive.”
Finland will also start collecting wastewater samples from aircraft to develop a better understanding of the situation.
“It’s a new task for us,” stated Kiuru. “What’s new is that wastewater analyses would be carried out for aircraft and airports. [The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare] THL will start this as soon as possible, no later than next week.”
Aleksi Teivainen – HT