Ministers agree to relax more coronavirus restrictions

There's changes to recommendations for the over-70s, for remote working and for foreign travel.

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File picture of (L-R) Maria Ohisalo, Pekka Haavisto, Aino-Kaisa Pekonen, Krista Kiuru at Helsinki press briefing, 23rd June 2020 / Credit: Lauri Heikkinen, VNK

Ministers have agreed to further relax measures put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus in Finland, after several hours of discussions at House of the Estates in Helsinki.

At a Tuesday evening press conference Minister of Family and Basic Services Krista Kiuru (SDP), Minister of Health Aino-Kaisa Pekonen (Left), Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo (Green) and Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) laid out Finland’s ‘new normal’ of falling coronavirus infection rates, advice for elderly people, working from home, opening borders and foreign travel.

New advice for over-70s

Kiuru said that initial risk assessments on the vulnerability of older people to Covid-19 was a deciding factor on putting restrictions in place in the first place, and noted that some 87% of the people who died in Finland from the disease have been over the age of 70.

She said that keeping stricter recommendations for older people in place, including a degree of self-isolation, had ultimately proved to be effective in slowing the spread of coronavirus.

However now that the R0 – the number of other people any one person can infect – has fallen to between 0.4 and 0.8, the government will drop recommendations to avoid physical contact based on age alone.

Kiuru says that it is still up to people to use their own good judgement about personal contact and says “we don’t give a general recommendation about hugs.”

Working from home up for review

Previous government advice to continue working from home throughout the summer is now being reviewed after 1st August with ministers citing falling infection rates.

Almost 60% of people in Finland were able to switch to remote working during the crisis says Minister Pekonen, which shows that there is scope for increasing the amount of teleworking she adds.

Pekonen says that in the future the best aspects of working from home could be combined with going to a workplace to build more flexible employment roles.

File picture of (L-R) Pekka Haavisto and Maria Ohisalo at press briefing Helsinki, 23rd June 2020 / Credit: Lauri Heikkinen, VNK

Border restrictions changing in the coming weeks 

Minister Ohisalo says that the government is proceeding with caution on the issue of fully opening borders.

From 13th July border controls and traffic restrictions will be lifted for EU and Schengen countries that have eight new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the previous 14 days.

This would also mean people arriving from those qualifying countries do not have to go into self-quarantine once they arrive in Finland.

Officials estimate that border controls and quarantine requirements would be lifted for Germany, Italy, Austria, Greece, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and Liechtenstein. Travel from Croatia, Cyprus and Ireland would be allowed without quarantine.

However there will still be restrictions on travel to Finland and Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, France, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

However all of these border issues will be discussed again by the government by 10th July at the latest.

Foreign Minister Haavisto says his ministry has guidelines on which countries to avoid because of the bad coronavirus situation there – and that indeed some destination countries will have their own set of rules about who is allowed in.