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Finland plans Covid testing aboard passenger ships from Tallinn

The initiative is aimed at curbing the potential spread of coronavirus viral variants.

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Testing aboard ships will be voluntary for passengers. Image: Yle

The City of Helsinki has announced plans to begin testing passengers aboard ships arriving into sea ports from Tallinn.

The move follows a recommendation from health agency THL that Finland should test all passengers arriving into the country in order to curb the potential spread of more contagious variants of the Covid19 virus.

The pilot project will begin with the testing of passengers aboard one ship arriving into Helsinki on Friday 15 January. Thereafter, the municipality plans to roll out testing on all ships operating from Tallinn to Helsinki.

Taking a test will be optional for passengers, the city added.

"At the start, each shift will contain two testers and at least two healthcare consultants," Helsinki health services director Leena Turpeinen told Yle.

Passengers not applying for tests in port

The initiative is being introduced because passengers have not taken up the opportunity to apply for tests through the health advice points within port buildings as much as authorities expected.

"People want to leave the port quickly, and there are no facilities within the buildings to put people into testing queues," Turpeinen explained.

So far, only a small number passengers have voluntarily applied for a coronavirus test after arriving into Helsinki port from Tallinn.

The city is currently negotiating with shipping companies about the logistics of arranging the testing on board, with a proposal that at least one room aboard each ship can be used for testing purposes. Shipping companies will also be asked to cooperate by encouraging passengers to volunteer for the free tests.

"One person can be tested every ten minutes. If we don't have time to test everyone on the ship, we will write referrals," Turpeinen said.

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