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Finland mulls hotel quarantine for Spain returnees

On Thursday foreign minister Pekka Haavisto said a couple thousand Finns were still on their way back home.

Matkustajien jalkoja lentokoneesa.
Thousands of travellers in Spain are expected to return to Finland. Image: Matej Kastelic / AOP
Yle News

Justice minister Anna-Maja Henriksson said that due to the global coronavirus crisis, the government is looking into whether to quarantine travellers returning from Spain, a country which has seen a high number of infections and a death toll of more than 4,000.

Henriksson made the comments on Yle’s discussion programme A-talk on Thursday evening, but said she had only learned about the plans recently and did not have many details to offer about the possible arrangement.

The Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa’s (HUS) chief executive, Juha Tuominen, said he was deeply concerned about the roughly two thousand Finns and other residents planning to return.

Tuominen noted that Spain is one of Europe’s countries hardest hit by the coronavirus epidemic, saying that it was not unlikely that all of the aircraft would be bringing back infected individuals.

“In my opinion an organised and monitored quarantine should be arranged for these people,” Tuominen said, suggesting it could be done at a hotel near the airport.

THL expert unsure about idea

Jussi Sane, a senior expert at the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), told Yle’s TV1 breakfast programme on Friday that he was not certain a quarantine for all of the returnees was called for.

“I would like to avoid the blanket statement that everyone arriving from abroad is infected. They don’t all have coronavirus, just as we here in Finland have a local epidemic,” he said.

According to Sane, the exact areas where the epidemic is spreading - and where it isn’t - remain vague, adding that the idea of a forced quarantine should be considered very carefully.

“If you put a lot of people in the same room it can also create risks,” he said, noting such examples have been recently seen in virus outbreaks on cruise ships around the world.

“So this is not a simple matter,” Sane said.

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