Transport operators VR, HSL end mandatory mask order

Both companies said passengers can continue to wear face coverings if they wish to do so in accordance with the national mask recommendation.

File photo of passengers disembarking from a train at Helsinki Central Station. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

In a statement (siirryt toiseen palveluun) released on Monday morning, Finland's national rail carrier VR has announced that it will no longer mandate passengers to wear masks on all long-distance and commuter services from 25 October.

Instead, the company said that passengers may wear masks if they wish, in line with the national recommendation on the use of face coverings.

Separately, Helsinki's Regional Transport Authority (HSL) also announced on Monday that it will end the obligation for passengers to wear masks on its services, but also said commuters can continue to wear them if they want.

"We have managed to keep trains safe throughout the Covid crisis," VR's Director of Passenger Traffic, Topi Simola, said. "We will also continue with our proven safety measures, such as enhanced cleaning."

Staff working on VR's services will continue to wear masks, the company said.

HSL introduced the mask mandate in March this year, as Finland's infection rate spiralled, but said it was moving from obligation to recommendation in line with the easing of wider societal restrictions.

"We align our guidelines with those of the health authorities. We recommend wearing of face masks on public transport in line with the guidelines of the National Institute for Health and Welfare [THL]," HSL Executive Director Mika Nykänen said in a press release (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

The statement added that HSL staff and workers at service points will continue to wear masks for tasks that require direct customer contact.

"The National Institute for Health and Welfare has assessed the risk of infection on urban public transport to be low," Nykänen said, adding that research conducted by the Technical Research Centre of Finland VTT also supported this viewpoint.

The THL on Monday also lifted its recommendation on masks in schools for pupils in grade 6 and above.