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Finland bans passenger flights from Ireland and South Africa

The ban is in place until 18 January.

Lentokoneita Lontoon Gatwick lentokentällä.
Finland banned passenger flights from the UK on 21 December. Image: Ben Stansall / AFP

Finland is to ban flights from Ireland and South Africa until 18 January, in an effort to stop the spread of a highly contagious mutation of the coronavirus.

Passenger flights from Britain to Finland were halted on 21 December 2020 over concerns about the mutation, and that ban has now been extended to last until 18 January.

The National Institute for Health and Welfare of Finland (THL) said on Friday that passengers arriving from Britain, South Africa and now also Ireland pose a significant risk to the spread of the new variant of the Covid-19 virus to Finland.

"The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, Traficom will suspend flights in accordance with THL's proposal," said the agency's Deputy Director General Jarkko Saarimäki.

"In its recommendation, THL has estimated a week to be an appropriate time for the restriction to take effect, but this will be re-examined next week to see if the situation has changed – and in which direction. We are prepared to action new restrictions very quickly if the health authorities deem it necessary," he said.

The flight suspensions are intended to stop the spread of the new strain of Covid-19, first identified in the United Kingdom. A slightly different type of the virus variant was also found in a passenger arriving from South Africa.

The fear is that the new variants will spread much faster than before, which could over-burden Finland's healthcare system.

The restriction only applies to direct air traffic and has no effect on flight traffic arriving via other countries.

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