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Government and health authority at odds over travel restrictions

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health wants travellers arriving in Finland to continue getting two Covid tests.

Mika Salminen saapuu Säätytalolle.
Mika Salminen, public health institute THL's health security director. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Public health institute THL has criticised plans by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health to ask Parliament to continue travel restrictions for inbound travellers through the end of the year.

These include demanding travellers get two Covid tests if they're unvaccinated.

Mika Salminen, the THL's health security director, said people exposed to coronavirus do not risk broadly spreading the virus once 80 percent of people in Finland are fully vaccinated, a target Finland has set for October.

He pointed out that the situation was different before the vaccine rollout.

"The thinking here must have been that we could prevent the spread of new variants in Finland. But variants haven't been prevented elsewhere either and have arrived in Finland anyway," Salminen said.

Markus Lohi (Cen), chair of Parliament's Social Affairs and Health Committee, also criticised the fact that improved vaccine coverage in Finland has not translated into the lifting of restrictions for travellers coming to Finland.

Current rules for travellers arriving in Finland are valid through mid-October. These include two Covid tests for those lacking a vaccine certificate or proof of having recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months. Travellers must get an initial test in their home country or immediately upon arrival in Finland, as well as a second test in Finland three to five days later.

"It's difficult to understand why we would test everyone coming here," Lohi said.

Sanna Kärkkäinen of Visit Rovaniemi said it would be a giant leap forward for the travel industry if Finland were to demand one test upon arrival from unvaccinated tourists, instead of two.

She said EU citizens and British nationals make up the majority of international travellers headed to Finnish Lapland this winter.

"The message to travellers would be simpler if we could say, 'you can come in with one test,' than to explain to them how they should get re-tested a few days later."

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