Minister: Fines or prison time for travelers who don’t self-isolate

Authorities will also introduce compulsory Covid-19 tests for anyone arriving from a high-risk country including Spain, Sweden, France, UK and USA.

File picture of Minister of Family and Basic Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) at briefing on 8th July 2020 / Credit: Lauri Heikkinen, VNK

Finland will introduce fines or even a possible three month prison sentence for people who refuse to go into self-isolation when they arrive from a high risk coronavirus country.

Speaking at a Monday evening press conference, Minister of Family and Basic Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) announced there would be compulsory testing and self-isolation for passengers arriving from those locations – the new rules being invoked for the first time using provisions in the Infectious Diseases Act.

It’s not clear yet how Finnish authorities will enforce the self-isolation rules, but some countries have used random checks and location monitoring via mobile phone to try and ensure the quarantine remains intact; while other countries have set up quarantine centres near ports of entry and made new arrivals stay inside for 14 days.

The move was prompted by a plane which arrived in Turku on Saturday evening from Skopje in Northern Macedonia. Local health authorities administered tests to all 157  passengers on board and two dozen of them were positive for Covid-19.

Last week a News Now Finland story showed how there were very few people turned away by the Finnish Border Guard during the tightest period of travel restrictions in April, May, and June – and that a lack of checks or enforcement where self-isolation was recommended meant the quarantine advice was simply not being taken.

Kiuru told reporters on Monday evening that authorities were “surprised” by the number of infected passengers aboard the Skopje flight, and another flight from Bucharest the day before where public health officials planned to test everyone on board, but some people refused.

“It is not enough to control infections. We have had discussions about whether flights to high risk countries can be blocked. The situation will be clarified” later, says Kiuru.

File picture showing flight departure board at Helsinki Airport / Credit: News Now Finland

THL: Tighter travel restrictions now needed 

Speaking at the briefing, Mika Salminen from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL says the number of cases of coronavirus in Finland have started to rise in recent days, and while many cases involve larger local chains of infection, public health authorities have been able to track, trace, and prevent the spread of the virus.

A number of those infections have been traced to the Balkan region.

“This is a worrying thing, especially now that we got results from one travel route. This requires that travel recommendations be addressed and tightened” he added.

The new rules on testing and self-isolation also apply to ferries arriving from Sweden, with Krista Kiuru confirming the rules will be extended to all border crossings “as soon as possible.”

Finland currently allows quarantine-free travel between countries where there’s been just eight cases of coronavirus confirmed per 100,000 population in the previous two weeks.

That means restrictions have been removed from Schengen countries including Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Greece, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, and Liechtenstein.

Outside of the Schengen area quarantine-free travel is permitted between Finland and Cyprus, Ireland, San Marino and the Vatican; Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay for residents of those countries.