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Health officials concerned as traffic across Finnish-Swedish border triples

The number of border crossings still remains a fraction of what it was before the coronavirus pandemic.

Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo made a surprise visit to southwest Lapland on Monday. The visit came after the number of people crossing the border between Tornio, Finland and its twin town of Haparanda, Sweden, tripled last weekend compared to the previous weekend.

Between Friday and Sunday, 7260 people crossed the western border in either direction, up from just 2100 a week earlier, according to the West Finland Coast Guard District. That represents growth of 245 percent. At border crossing points further north, the rise was only around 25 percent.

Prior to the pandemic, the border had been virtually invisible for years, with many people crossing daily for work, shopping or other reasons. Before border checks were re-instated on March 19, an estimated 38,000 crossed between the two countries daily.

Highest Covid-19 rate besides Uusimaa

With coronavirus infection rates much higher in Sweden than Finland, the recent rise has worried public health officials.

Jyri J. Taskila, chief physician of the Länsi-Pohja Hospital District, urges people to think carefully before crossing the border. There are 138 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the medical district, including two newly-diagnosed ones. The area has Finland's highest per-capita rate of infection besides the Uusimaa region, which includes Helsinki.

Ohisalo met with border officials during her unannounced visit on Monday. She said she was concerned about the spike in traffic across the Finnish-Swedish border in recent days.

"We still recommend that the border only be crossed for essential reasons such as work or family issues," Ohisalo said during her visit, calling on "each person to bear their own responsibility".

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