A number of Chinese tourists currently visiting Finnish Lapland would like to stay in Finland for an extended period of time due to the coronavirus epidemic.
The Lapland Police Department revealed on Friday that it had received several inquiries this past week about the possibility of extending Chinese tourist visas. The inquiries have come from both individual travelers and from tour operators.
"We have received inquiries about the possibilities of extending visas in both Rovaniemi and Ivalo. Both tourists and tour companies have been making inquiries. Some tourists do not want to return to their home country given the current situation," Lapland Police Department’s Licenses Manager Maarit Koivuniemi told Yle.
"We have directed the inquirers to look for information on the police website, where there are instructions for extending visas," Koivuniemi said, adding that no official visa application has yet been submitted to the Lapland Police.
Sudden illness or flight cancellation may justify extension
A person traveling from China to Finland requires a visa issued by the Finnish authorities, and there are strict grounds for the extension of visas.
In principle, the police may extend a traveler's visa only in situations of so-called force majeure -- or unforeseeable circumstances -- such as if the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs prohibits travel to a certain area, if there is a military or natural disaster, or if flights to the area are canceled.
"The person must have some form of force majeure preventing them from leaving the country during the period of validity of the visa. In principle, cancellation of flights can be considered as such," Koivuniemi explained.
Many airlines have announced this week that they will either stop or reduce their traffic to China. Finland's national carrier, Finnair, said on Friday that it is planning to cancel all of its flights to mainland China from 6-29 February.
The licensing authorities have not yet received guidance on how to deal with Chinese tourists currently in Finland, but the situation is being continually monitored.
"If the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs forbids traveling to China, then we would of course also be instructed on Chinese tourists on holiday in Finland," Koivuniemi said.
Finland's Ministry for Foreign Affairs has not prohibited travel to China, but the Ministry has urged passengers to exercise the usual caution and to avoid unnecessary travel to Hubei Province.