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Finland unveils Covid pass draft bill — Parliament votes this week

The long-expected coronavirus vaccination certificate will be available from the OmaKanta medical portal for people aged 16 years old and above.

Matkustajat kävelevät Pasilan asemalla.
File photo of passengers passing through Helsinki Central Railway station. Image: Jorge Gonzalez / Yle

Finland's Covid vaccination certificate — otherwise known as the Covid passport — was officially unveiled at a press conference hosted by Parliament's Committee on Social Affairs and Health on Tuesday afternoon.

If approved by Parliament in a vote expected later this week, the pass will be available from the OmaKanta healthcare portal and meant to be used as an alternative to coronavirus restrictions. Use of the pass would permit businesses like restaurants or gyms to permit more customers than could be allowed under Covid-related restrictions.

The certificate confirms that the holder has either: been fully vaccinated against Covid, has tested negative for the disease within a period of the previous 72 hours, or has contracted but recovered from the virus within the past six months.

Speaking at the Tuesday press conference, committee chair Markus Lohi (Cen) confirmed the parliamentary body recommended that the Covid pass age limit be raised from the government's proposal of 12 years and above to 16 years and up.

"In practice, the Covid passport could create significant obstacles to children's hobbies and recreation. That is why the committee is proposing to raise the age limit to 16," Lohi said.

He added that young people aged between 12 and 15 years old may encounter difficulties downloading the pass from the OmaKanta website, as they may not have the necessary means of online identification.

This age group was also much less likely to become seriously ill from the virus, he said.

In addition, the committee recommended changes to the government's proposal so that 16- and 17-year-olds should receive free-of-charge coronavirus tests from public health services if they are not vaccinated. This should also apply to people who cannot get vaccinated for health reasons, the committee added.

Border entry rules remain in force

In its report, the committee also proposed extending Finland's current border entry requirements until the end of this year.

According to the current regulations, unvaccinated or one-dose passengers arriving from at-risk or otherwise designated countries are required to undergo two coronavirus tests: one on arrival and the second within 3–5 days of arrival in Finland.

The committee disagreed on the need for the second test, with a narrow vote of 7 to 6 ultimately decided that the need for a second test would be maintained.

Both Lohi and the committee's vice chair Mia Laiho (NCP) expressed disappointment that the second test stipulation would remain, with Laiho saying that it would directly impact Finland's attractiveness as a tourism destination.

"Yes it certainly has an effect, as [the tourist] might rather choose Norway or Sweden. This also affects the spring season, as it can have a knock-on effect on the decision of where to go on holiday," Laiho said.

"In that sense, this is an unfortunate day for the tourism industry," Lohi said.

Pass could be in use by end of this week

Members of Parliament are scheduled to vote on passing the draft proposal into law this week, most likely on Friday afternoon, meaning the Covid pass could come into use as early as Saturday 16 October.

If passed, the law would be temporary and only valid until the end of this year.

However, Lohi emphasised that although the law may enter into force, the pass would only be effectively in use in regions where restrictions on public gatherings or the amount of people that can attend a particular event are still in effect.

Based on current infection rates, these regions include Southwest Finland, Ostrobothnia, Satakunta, Päijät-Häme as well as the metropolitan Helsinki region.

Otherwise, the pass would only be used if the epidemic situation deteriorates and restrictions need to be tightened or re-introduced.

"The goal should be that the Covid passport is never used, that is, that the epidemic situation throughout Finland would be such that there would be no new restrictions," Lohi said.

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