Finland's Parliament has voted to approve the temporary Covid pass law at a plenary session on Friday afternoon. MPs also approved the continuation of Finland's border entry restrictions during the same session.
The proposal was approved by 105 votes to 33, with the Covid pass expected to enter into force from midnight on Friday after the legislation has been signed into law by President Sauli Niinistö.
The basic purpose of the pass is to allow businesses, such as restaurants or gyms, to circumvent regional coronavirus restrictions by ensuring that customers have been fully vaccinated against the virus, have recently tested negative or have recovered from the virus.
An age limit of 16 years old has also been set, and the pass will only be used in areas where coronavirus restrictions are in effect.
Furthermore, businesses and public spaces can decide themselves whether or not they will request that customers show a Covid pass.
While it remains to be seen how widespread use of the pass will be, the types of establishments which could request the pass include: sports venues, gyms, swimming pools, theatres, museums and similar cultural spaces as well as bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
Bars, restaurants may ask for pass from midnight
According to a government press release (siirryt toiseen palveluun) on Friday morning, there are currently six regions where restrictions on the opening hours and operations of bars and restaurants still apply: Southwest Finland, Satakunta, Ostrobothnia, Central Ostrobothnia, Päijät-Häme and the Helsinki metropolitan area.
This means that if a restaurant, for example, requires that customers show a Covid pass, the regional restrictions do not apply. However, if the restaurant does not ask customers for passes, then the establishment still needs to comply with regional Covid restrictions.
A bar or restaurant that does require customers to show the passes will be able to stay open longer and serve alcohol later than establishments that do not use the pass system.
Riku-Matti Lehikoinen, the Head of Avi's Alcohol Management Unit, told Yle that the agencies will begin monitoring compliance with the new regulations from midnight on Friday.
"The Covid pass makes it clear that if the pass is in use, there are very few rules but if the pass is not in use, then there are quite a lot of rules and restrictions," he said, adding that inspectors can instruct restaurant or bar staff to check a customer's pass.
"If we suspect that someone has not been asked for a pass, we can instruct staff to check the matter. People without a pass must be ordered out [after the closing time designated by the regional restrictions]," Lehikoinen said.
Protestors gather outside Parliament
Before MPs voted on the draft bill, an estimated 250-300 people gathered outside Parliament around noon on Friday to protest against the introduction of the pass.
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The protest was organised by the Vapauden puolesta (roughly translated as 'For Freedom') movement.
In Parliament, all of the members of the opposition parties who were present for the session from the Finns Party and the Christian Democrats as well as Ano Turtiainen of the one-man Power Belongs to the People (VKK) party voted against the bill.
However, the 21 members of the opposition National Coalition Party that attended the session voted in favour, as did Harry Harkimo of Movement Now.