EU reminder sent over Finland's lack of passenger-notification system

The EU Commission has urged Finland to keep better track of international arrivals. 

International travellers are expected to bring the Omicron variant to Finland. Image: Finnair

The EU Commission has asked Finland and other EU countries to improve their Covid vigilance. Finland should improve its border controls and vaccination programme, according to reports.

Most EU countries demand international arrivals fill out a passenger information form to help contact tracers to find them for two weeks after they enter the country.

The Commission wants all member states to use these forms to prevent the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant.

The passenger locator form has been proposed in Finland, but implementation has been sluggish.

"We have said the passenger information form would be useful several times, but so far the health authorities have apparently not managed to get it done among their other tasks," said Tuomas Laosmaa of the Border Guard.

Sequencing laggard?

The form would help contact people who had been sitting close to those who later tested positive for Covid.

The government tried to implement a system like this earlier in the year, but the effort was abandoned due to technical difficulties, legislative changes and data protection issues.

Ministers did decide over the weekend that they would bring in 'emergency brake' rules, which mean that people can only enter Finland if they have a good reason.

The EU Commission letter also urged member states to genetically sequence more samples from Covid cases, as a way of tracking the spread of the omicron variant.

Finland was seen to be a target of that message, with Reuters suggesting that the Nordic country is towards the bottom of European statistics on sequencing.

According to national health agency THL, however, Finland sequences 15-20 percent of all positive cases and the numbers at the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) are wrong.

The reason for that, according to THL, is that Finland reports the number of sequenced cases only once the results are in, resulting in a time lag between number of cases and number of sequenced cases.