In a sign of changes afoot in Europe, Finland is set to be the next EU nation to open even to high-risk Covid countries such as the U.S.
The country is poised to bring in mandatory testing rules in October which means even those from lands with much higher infection rates will be welcome.
Finland will soon “relax travel restrictions” and “implement a test-based scheme” reports public broadcaster YLE.
“Travel to Finland will soon be possible from more countries, but mandatory coronavirus testing is likely to be introduced,” it says.
The testing strategy is now confirmed by the government.
“The Finnish government on Thursday decided to scale down its restrictions on cross-border travel,” reports the Helsinki Times.
Finnish Quarantine Rules Relaxed–Starting With Europeans
The rules are due to take effect from September 14. But not everyone will be welcome at the outset.
Finns or foreigners arriving from Schengen countries with 25 or less cases per 100,000 people in the past fortnight no longer face compulsory testing or quarantine.
Until now, quarantine was required for places with eight or more cases per 100,000. The government also advised against all but essential travel to destinations with a Covid incidence higher than its own– currently at 8.5 per 100,000.
This ruled out tourism even to many relatively low-risk European neighbors, as well as high-risk red zones.
- With the latest move, travel will again be possible to and from Denmark, Norway and Sweden. As it should be for many parts of South-East Asia and Africa, plus Australia, China and others going by current European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data.
- Whereas travel to/from places including France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Czechia, Croatia, the Netherlands, the U.K., the U.S. and Brazil is still off the cards. Though not for long.
Next, Testing Will Mean Opening To Everyone
Finland will raise the Covid infection threshold by October, to allow visits worldwide.
The plan hinges on the introduction of new laws to cater for a “testing-based entry model” reports Helsinki Times.
For travelers from countries where Covid infection rates are above 25/100,000, a negative test result will be required on arrival.
According to Reuters, travelers must then remain in self-isolation until they produce a second negative test.
The United States according to the ECDC is averaging over 120 cases per 100,000, so way above the Finnish and European yardstick.
Finns Falling In Line With New EU Testing And Open Border Push
The EU is encouraging members to open borders to countries with no more than 25–50 coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
For “red zones” over this level, it says, member countries should propose quarantine. And that seems exactly to be what Finland has in mind.
Tourism Industry Rejoices–At Least Most Players
Finnish Transport Minister, Timo Harakka, said a draft bill will make proof of a negative corona test mandatory for passengers from red zones.
Most Baltic and Nordic countries are expected to be exempt from the rule.
Economic Affairs Minister, Mika Lintilä, heralded the step as great news for leisure and business travel–and for the tourism industry.
“I’m sorry that it took so long, but better late than never,” he said. “Finnair will now return to the competitive market where it has been with its European competitors.”
Some tourism operators are less than enthusiastic however.
“Flight ticket €190, Covid test €210,” tweeted Lapland SantaPark entrepreneur, Ilkka Länkinen, who fears the prohibitive cost will hit winter tourism.
Yet many, including the Finnish government, feel Covid tests are the only thing that will make full EU border reopening possible.
“The purpose is to make tourism to Finland possible and safe for health,” said Harakka.
Interior Minister, Maria Ohisalo, says internal Schengen border controls will remain until the testing laws are in place.
More Tests Allow EU Borders To Gradually Open To All
Amid a marked European Covid comeback over the past month, some wonder whether borders opened too quickly.
Croatia, an EU but not Schengen member, has been welcoming Americans and others officially from early July. Testing requirements stiffened as corona cases soared. Malta became the first EU and Schengen member to open to everyone in August.
Now it remains to be seen how many decide to take the Finnish direction, in order to resurrect some of the winter tourism season too, after struggling through a sluggish Covid summer.