In order to prevent the spread of new coronavirus infections, individuals arriving to Finland from countries with high infection rates will be required to quarantine under penalty of law, Minister for Basic Services and Health, Krista Kiuru (SDP), said at a joint conference on Monday evening.
The announcement was made on the same day news emerged that a large number of passengers who arrived on a flight from Skopje, Northern Macedonia, on Saturday in Turku, Southwest Finland, were confirmed to have coronavirus infections.
On Monday evening, the City of Turku's welfare department director Riitta Liuksa confirmed that 24 of the 157 passengers on the flight from Skopje had coronavirus infections.
Director of the Institute for Health and Welfare's (THL) health security department, Mika Salminen, was also at the press conference and underscored that the quarantine measures were no longer recommendations, but obligatory.
"This is no longer a matter of voluntary quarantine. For the first time Article 70 of the Communicable Diseases Act is being used," he said.
Kiuru noted that individuals who do not follow quarantine orders could face up to three months in jail or a fine.
Salminen said he was "disappointed" that people had travelled to high-risk countries, like the Balkans, more than the health authority had anticipated when travel restrictions were eased earlier this summer.
Salminen pointed out that the government has recommended that people should avoid travelling to countries where infectious rates are high.
Countries are considered by Finland to be high-risk if they record more than eight confirmed Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents per day.
He said that, in practice, most of the countries in the rest of the world are still considered to be at risk.
Covid "coming across the border"
Nations that are currently considered "safe" by the THL include: South Korea, Georgia, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Greece, Cyprus, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Rwanda, Germany, San Marino, Slovakia, Denmark, Thailand, Tunisia, Hungary, Uruguay, New Zealand, the Vatican and Estonia.
Representatives from the City of Vantaa and the THL as well as the health ministry also took part in the press conference. Finland's largest international airport, Helsinki Airport, is located in the city of Vantaa.
Vantaa's deputy mayor, Timo Aronkytö, said that the coronavirus enters Finland via Helsinki Airport "every day."
Late last month it was announced that Helsinki Airport would begin testing some arriving passengers for coronavirus infections.
"Coronavirus is currently coming from across the border. We've tested hundreds of passengers and some were found to have been infected," he said.