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Finland tightens borders, ramps up testing

The latest measures are aimed at tackling the spread of new coronavirus variants.

Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo (left) and Social Services Minister Krista Kiuru at Friday evening's press conference. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

Finland is to bar all but essential travel as it looks to curb the potential spread of new, more highly contagious variants of the virus.

The latest measures include the increased rollout of coronavirus testing at all border points and further restrictions on cross-border traffic with the exception of essential work-related trips and meetings with close family.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday evening, Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo (Green) said the measures were required to ensure health authorities have sufficient capacity to test all travellers and, if necessary, recommend quarantining.

"Our goal is to reduce traffic at the borders so that it is possible to test everyone coming across the border," Ohisalo said.

Social Services Minister Krista Kiuru (SDP) said the government will introduce restrictions on cross-border traffic at midnight on Wednesday 27 January, and they will remain in place for 30 days until 25 February.

"We have already had a taste of the power of the mutated strains," Kiuru said. "The volume of travel must be reduced. Testing will be extended to all border crossing points and all passengers will be directed to take a test. Implementation will begin immediately."

According to the latest figures provided by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), a total of 86 cases of the British or South African variant have so far been detected in Finland.

Ohisalo added that is not possible to prohibit Finnish citizens from leaving and returning to the country, as freedom of movement is a constitutional right, but she appealed to people not to travel across the border for reasons other than absolutely necessary.

"We would not take such drastic restrictive actions unless they were absolutely necessary," the minister said.