Finland is to tighten restrictions on its borders as it fights to get a grip on the coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday the government announced new rules in force at Finland's borders which will be in place until at least 13 May. The measures are aimed at restricting incoming traffic, especially at the borders with Sweden and Norway, where only essential commuter travel will be permitted in the future.
"The quarantine regulations for immigrants will be tightened. All border crossers will be instructed to stay in quarantine-like conditions for 14 days," Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo said at a Tuesday morning news conference.
"The exceptions are border crossings for emergency and rescue personnel and freight transport personnel. They do not have to be in quarantine-like conditions."
Furthermore, the government appealed to employers in border areas to find ways of helping their employees reduce the frequency of their country crossings. One way to do this could be for the employer to arrange accommodation for employees closer to the workplace.
"Workers who, on the basis of a permanent employment relationship or assignment, work in a border area near Sweden or Norway may continue to move if this work is deemed necessary and if these people can only move between work and home," Ohisalo added.
The government also recommended that shipping companies operating from Sweden, Estonia and Germany to Finland stop selling passenger tickets from this Saturday.
Sweden to improve testing
Swedish authorities have expressed concern about the potential impact on healthcare services in the north of the country if Finnish doctors, nurses and rescue professionals are unable to cross the border.
Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto held talks with his Swedish counterpart Ann Linde, in which Sweden promised to increasingly test its nursing staff in the future, provide them with more protective equipment, and also offer intensive care places to Finnish patients.
The Finnish government has also appealed to Swedish authorities to further improve the instructions given to Swedish healthcare personnel.
Essential travel to and from Åland still possible
Essential passenger travel from Mariehamn, Åland in the Finnish Archipelago to Stockholm, Helsinki and Turku is still possible by sea and by air. Åland is a semi-autonomous group of islands off Finland's south-west coast.
"Border traffic guidelines will be tightened so that doctors and healthcare staff arriving from Sweden will have to spend two weeks in quarantine before working in Åland. Today, there are about ten doctors coming from Sweden to Åland," Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson announced on Tuesday morning.
Yle sources have indicated that the government is concerned about the adequacy of Åland's healthcare services, and has instructed the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health to ensure that Åland Hospital is brought up to its full potential capacity.
One of the prerequisites for this capacity increase is that passenger traffic from Mariehamn to Finland and Sweden must remain possible.