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Finland to test all arrivals at Helsinki Airport

The spread of more infectious strains of the virus would further burden healthcare resources, officials say.

Matkustaja saapuu Helsinki-Vantaan lentoasemalle 7. elokuuta 2020. Häntä vastassa on kaksi henkilöä, joilla on ohjelehtinen Suomeen ulkomailta saapuville.
Finland is rolling out mass Covid testing at Helsinki Airport. Image: Arttu Timonen / Yle

Family Affairs and Social Services Minister Krista Kiuru said a special working group would begin testing arriving passengers at Helsinki Airport on Friday.

"Naturally we won’t be at full capacity on day one, but over the next few days it’s important that we put this guideline into practice," she said.

Authorities at the airport can guide individuals refusing tests to undergo private health checks or recommend quarantine. Finland is, however, not in a position to force mass testing under current rules.

On Thursday, public health institute THL issued new guidelines calling for all arriving passengers at Helsinki Airport to be tested for coronavirus to help prevent new strains from entering the country.

Decentralised testing

The government is now expecting municipalities to produce timelines on how quickly they can implement testing at harbours and border checkpoints.

At Christmastime authorities at Helsinki Airport tested arriving passengers who had been in the UK or South Africa--even if they weren’t exhibiting symptoms associated with the virus.

Kiuru noted that the government has determined that while the virus strain circulating in the UK spreads more rapidly than other known variants, the mutation has not proven to be any more dangerous than others.

"The problem is of course that if it spreads faster, the proportion of serious cases increases," Kuru explained.

Some 1,500 to 2,500 international travellers currently arrive at Helsinki Airport each day.

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