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Finland amends disease law to simplify business closures

A separate amendment to the Communicable Diseases Act may see mandatory Covid testing introduced at borders by April.

Perhe- ja peruspalveluministeri Krista Kiuru kertoi hallituksen esityksestä tartuntatautilain muutoksiksi rajojen terveysturvallisuuden parantamiseksi mediatilaisuudessa.
Family Affairs and Social Services Minister Krista Kiuru speaking at a press conference on Friday afternoon. Image: Emmi Korhonen / Lehtikuva
Yle News

Parliament has approved changes to the Communicable Diseases Act which will make it easier to close privately-owned businesses and test passengers arriving in Finland for coronavirus.

The amendments provide municipalities and Regional State Administrative Agencies (Avi) with more powers to impose regional restrictions.

Regions will then be able to close both publicly and privately-owned sports facilities, such as gyms and swimming pools.

Under the new measures, the number of customers allowed inside retail premises at any one time could be reduced as well as the number of passengers allowed on public transport, if regional authorities deem such changes necessary.

The amendments to the Communicable Diseases Act providing for the extra powers will come into force from Monday 22 February. That is sooner than the 1 March start date originally planned, as the epidemic situation worsens in Finland.

Proposal to introduce mandatory border testing

The government has also put the final touches on a proposal to introduce compulsory testing of all passengers arriving into Finland at airports, seaports and other border crossings.

Under current measures, testing is carried out at the country’s borders on a voluntary basis.

If a person refuses to take a test, he or she could be fined or imprisoned for up to three months.

"Actions that have been successful in the past are no longer enough to fight the new threat," Family Affairs and Social Services Minister Krista Kiuru said at a Friday afternoon press conference.

The proposed amendment would also oblige people infected or exposed to contagious illnesses, such as coronavirus, to inform health authorities.

The proposal will be submitted to Parliament’s Constitutional Law Committee for consideration, and if it passes through legislative stages it will come into force from the start of April.

Closure of bars, restaurants under consideration

The government is also considering a proposal aimed at tightening restrictions on bars and restaurants, particularly in the Uusimaa region.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) recommended on Thursday that all hostelries in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area close their doors until 14 March. Infections linked to bars and restaurants have been particularly prevalent in the capital region, according to the head of THL’s vaccination programme unit Taneli Puumalainen.

A closure order would also require amendments to the Infectious Diseases Act, but the government’s coalition partners have been unable to find political agreement on issues such as opening hours and customer capacity numbers.

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