Foreign Minister: ‘We trust Finns on repatriated flights to self-isolate’

Extra flights are coming from Cyprus, Portugal and Miami on Friday to bring back stranded holidaymakers.

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File picture of Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) at press conference in Helsinki, 26th March 2020 / Credit: Laura Kotila, VNK

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) says he trusts that Finns on repatriation flights from abroad will self-isolate when they return home, without it having to be enforced by authorities.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Finnair have announced more special flights to bring back Finns who are stuck overseas and haven’t been able to get home. There will be two flights from Portugal and one from Cyprus on Friday.

“There are dozens of Finnish tourists in each destination, without any real opportunity to return to Finland. In addition, government restrictions, especially in Cyprus, make the situation significantly more difficult” says Antti Putkonen, Head of Consular Affairs Unit at the ministry.

The flights leave from Paphos, Funchal and Faro. In addition, Finnair has a special flight from Miami to Helsinki on Friday to help repatriate Finnish tourists who have been stuck in the USA.

Speaking at a Thursday morning press conference, Pekka Haavisto said they’re counting on returnees to follow healthcare protocols about coronavirus.

“We still trust in Finns that they are capable of self-isolation, as Finns here domestically have done. We have a lot of people, 70 plus, who have done the self-isolation successfully” said the minister in reply to a question from News Now Finland.

However there will be a comprehensive information campaign to ensure the passengers on repatriation flights know what’s expected of them once they get home.

“We will share and distribute the information in the planes when these repatriation planes are coming, the first ones on Friday. There will be announcements on the planes, there will be written information on the planes and there will be health authorities meeting them at the airports and these instructions will be very clear” Haavisto explained.

“We don’t have to do it through the police forces, we trust that the Finns can do this and behave wisely in this situation and do the self-implemented 14 day quarantine” he added.

Earlier in March authorities said that anyone arriving back in Finland from overseas should go to self-isolation, and that they’d receive SMS messages on return to inform them of this.

Healthcare officials have said since the beginning of the current crisis  that they believe health screenings at airports are not effective, and that temperature checks throw up too many false positives.