Finland will close off its external borders from Thursday and ban foreign travel for at least two weeks, as police ensure residents are complying with new provisions to deal with the spread of coronavirus.
The Emergency Act will be finalised on Thursday, and gives the Government extra powers for the next month to enforce new rules such as requiring people over the age of 70 to self-isolate, and to prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people.
At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) told reporters that retired Border Guards could be called back to work if necessary to enforce the border.
The northern borders between Finland and Sweden, and Finland and Norway will remain open for freight traffic, but only people who have an immediate need to travel will be allowed to leave the country.
Ministers say there’s no need to put in place domestic travel restrictions at this time, but it is a measure which could be considered at a later date.
Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) also said that Finns abroad should return to Finland as soon as possible – unless they have a job or permanent residence abroad – and immediately go into quarantine for 14 days.
Police to monitor public gatherings
Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo (Green) confirmed that police would be tasked with making sure people didn’t gather in groups of more than 10 people – something which is now banned under the new legislation for the next month.
The police won’t likely be making arrests, with Ohisalo saying the primary means of enforcement are to handle these situations in a low-key way through dialogue.
“The better we all comply with these regulations, the better the police will be able to direct their resources to emergency alert and crime prevention” she says.
Police University students, and recently retired officers could also be drafted into service to support the provisions of the Emergency Act.
However Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson (SFP) said that there had not even been discussions on whether Finns would face punishment for violating the restrictions because “that’s not the key thing right now.”
According to the Ministry of Interior, a “public gathering” is a general meeting held in a public place including demonstrations and other events which are open to anyone.
However, hobby sports and recreation, or going to restaurants or cinemas are not considered “public gatherings” for the purposes of the new legislation.
Restrictions on sale of pharmaceuticals
The Government also announced on Tuesday afternoon a restriction on the sale of medicines throughout the country.
Minister for Social Affairs and Health Aino-Kaisa Pekonen (Left) says that although there are currently good stocks of medicines in pharmacies, sales need to be restricted to make sure they’re available to people who need them most.
This restriction will remain in force until 13th April.