Finland eases curbs on cross-border travel, public events

The Foreign Ministry is still advising people to avoid unnecessary overseas travel. (Tiina Jutila/Yle)
Government said on Thursday that it would ease restrictions on cross-border travel imposed to slow the spread of novel coronavirus. From Monday, 15 June, Finnish residents will be able to travel to Baltic and Nordic countries, Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo said during a press conference on Thursday.

Ohisalo said that internal border controls would be lifted on travel between Finland and Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, Norway and Iceland and that it would be possible to travel to these countries without a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival.

In the case of Sweden, however, the restrictions will remain in place because of the pandemic situation there, the minister said. Sweden currently has one of the highest per capita death rates from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, and its handling of the epidemic has come under increasing scrutiny.

“The situation does not make it possible,” she added.

No travel to Sweden or Russia for now

Ministers were asked whether or not the decision to maintain the restrictions on cross-border travel to Sweden will affect bilateral relations between the two countries.

“We have controlled the coronavirus situation in Finland and believe that it will also happen in Sweden. We are talking about maybe a few weeks here. I believe that this is understandable on both sides of the border, although of course it will disrupt normal interaction,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto responded.

Ohisalo said that the decisions will be confirmed during a cabinet meeting on Friday, and noted that the situation will be reviewed during the next two weeks.

Transport and Communications Minister Timo Harakka told reporters that government will also discuss opening up travel between Finland and other Schengen countries. Until then restrictions on travelling to countries such as Russia will remain in place, at least 14 July.

The Foreign Ministry continues to advise that citizens and permanent residents avoid unnecessary travel abroad.

Large public events back on track

Government has also decided to lift restrictions on large public events involving audiences of more than 500 from 1 July, according to Science and Culture Minister Hanna Kosonen.

However event organisers will be required to implement special arrangements. For example they will be required to to separate audiences into sections.

“Although we cannot dismantle all restrictions, I believe that this is a much-desired leap in the right direction,” Kosonen said.

It is already possible to stage public events catering to audience of between 50 and 500 as well as public indoor events.

Many event organisers have called for changes in the previous rules to allow them to put on events of over 500 if they take place outdoors and if safety distancing can be implemented by segmenting audiences.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin had previously said that detailed guidelines for organising public events would be forthcoming on Thursday, but that has been pushed back to next week.

“We will return to the matter next week, when we see how the easing of restrictions in June have affected the epidemic,” she said.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Arctic researchers prepare for a summer where they can’t travel to Canada’s North, CBC News

Finland: Man trying to enter Russia stuck in Finland for over 2 months, Yle News

Greenland: COVID-19 could delay Kingdom of Denmark’s Arctic strategy, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Iceland and Greenland implement COVID-19 testing for travellers, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norway to expand network of electric car chargers across Arctic, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: New Barents Sea port and 500 km railway link will connect Asia to Russian Arctic, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden to lift domestic travel restrictions in mid-June, Radio Sweden

United States: Airline shutdown creates new challenges for rural Alaska, The Associated Press

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