According to information received by Yle, the government is considering allowing visitors from countries with up to twice as many Covid-19 infections as Finland.
The administration is said to be in a hurry to finalize legislation that would give clear instructions on who can visit Finland and under what conditions. The rule of thumb is that people can enter the country if they come from countries where the epidemic situation is similar or better than in Finland.
The government is working to distribute the bill for comment in the coming days. In practice, this means that the bill may not come before lawmakers before Christmas. The situation is not helped by the fact that the government should also make similar decisions on travel restrictions and amendments to the Communicable Diseases Act.
The Lapland tourism industry has been waiting for weeks for new travel rules that would help revive their ticket assets. However, it now appears that there is no relief in squeezing the coronavirus in time for Christmas.
No European country meets the criteria
The travel rules in force in Finland restrict visitors to countries where the incidence of the disease is 25 / 100,000 in two weeks. According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Finland’s infection rate is now 53 / 100,000 inhabitants.
There are currently no European countries that meet the new criteria. In Estonia, the infection rate for Covid-19 is 129 / 100,000 people, while in Germany the corresponding figures are 218 and in the United Kingdom 478 / 100,000.
The proposed new travel rules are likely to come into force next spring at the earliest if and when the pandemic begins to ease globally. It is therefore hoped that an effective vaccine will also be available soon.
The question of how many people would be willing to travel to Lapland now is another matter. For example, borders are virtually closed in France, the United Kingdom and Greece. For the most part, people are only allowed to leave their homes if they exercise, walk their dogs or take their children to school.
New test and journey
The government is also said to be returning to the proposed test and travel model. It essentially determines how incoming passengers are tested for coronavirus at the state border.
An attempt by the Ministry of Transport and Communications in the test and travel protocol lost steam in Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs as it tried to make changes to the Transport Services Act.
The committee said it rejected the model because it gave too much power to the Department of Health and Welfare, THL. Infectious doctors recommend quarantine in Finland.
Following the defeat, responsibility for preparing new test and travel rules was transferred to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, whose proposal requires amendments to the Communicable Diseases Acts.
The model now under consideration would allow visitors to avoid 10 days of quarantine upon arrival if they can demonstrate a negative coronavirus test from the country of origin. Tourists who want to spend more than three days in Finland must also be quarantined for three days before taking a new test.
The need to ensure free movement
The government is under tremendous pressure to act quickly. The border regulations of the Schengen countries mean that Finland cannot maintain border control for more than six months. Finland already exceeded this threshold at the end of September.
Each time the border is crossed, the government must give reasons for continuing border controls. The next deadline is November 23 – in just two weeks.
According to Yle sources, one option would be to continue border controls until legislators ratify the new legislation – which may not happen before Christmas.
The government must also ensure that visitors do not spread the disease in Finland, monitor the activities of tourism operators and ensure that it can at some point remove restrictions on the free movement of EU citizens across Finnish borders.
Source: The Nordic Page