Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Finland to extend restrictions to border traffic and self-quarantine measures for incoming travelers until May 13.

This alert affects Finland

This alert began 07 Apr 2020 17:18 GMT and is scheduled to expire 13 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Until May 13
  • Impact: Movement restrictions, increased absenteeism; quarantine measures, short-term goods shortages

Summary
Finnish authorities on April 7 extended restrictions to border traffic and mandatory self-quarantine measures for incoming travelers until May 13. Employees crossing the borders with Sweden and Finland are obliged to carry a certificate from their employer stating that their job is essential; healthcare, elderly care, and rescue services personnel are considered essential. People who work on a permanent basis in the areas along the borders with Sweden and Norway are also allowed to travel across the border but must remain in self-isolation when in Finland. Anybody arriving in the country is subject to a mandatory 14-day home self-isolation; essential emergency and freight transport personnel are exempt. Foreign nationals are permitted to return to their home countries.

Processing delays at checkpoints are likely for freight transport and those on essential business. Passenger traffic remains prohibited at the Vainikkala border crossing with Russia. On the Finland-Norway border, only the Karigasniemi, Kilpisjarvi, Kivilompolo, Nuorgam, Naatamo, and Utsjoki crossings remain open. On the Finland-Sweden border, only the Karesuvanto, Kolari, Muonio, Pello, Tornio, and Ylitornio crossings are open. Airports have largely closed, with the exception of Helsinki (HEL), Mariehamn (MHQ), and Turku (TKU).

Previously, authorities implemented movement restrictions between Uusimaa Region, including the capital Helsinki, and neighboring regions March 27 as part of measures to combat the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Officials only permit residents seeking to return to their homes to cross the regional boundary. Cargo vehicles and those traveling for work purposes or with exceptional personal circumstances will be able to enter and leave Uusimaa; these restrictions will last until at least April 19.

Authorities closed all schools March 18 until at least April 13. Other official measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 include a ban on all gatherings of more than 10 people, the limiting of nonemergency healthcare services, and the closure of public places, including museums, swimming pools, and leisure centers. Authorities have also suspended passenger rail services between Finland and Russia.

Panic buying of essential goods, particularly hygiene products, could prompt shortages, and further temporary surges in demand are likely in reaction to any high-profile developments around COVID-19. The school closures will probably result in increased absenteeism among employees who are the parents or guardians of school-aged children. In addition, increasing numbers of workers will likely work from home in the coming weeks as a routine health precaution and due to voluntary self-isolation.

Background and Analysis
The measures taken by Finland are similar to actions taken by other governments globally in recent days in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic

Advice
Follow all official Instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel plans and business appointments. Carry proper identification and other necessary travel documents to present at security checks. Plan for processing delays if traveling or routing freight across German borders. Consider delaying travel if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

Resources
World Health Organisation (WHO): www.who.int

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health: stm.fi

Border Helpline: +358 50 597 2255