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Ministers agree extension to Finland's strict travel rules

Finland has had border checks within the Schengen area for more than six months. 

Torniossa Rajavartiostolla on käynnissä rajavalvonta Ruotsin rajalla.
The Finland-Sweden border has seen stepped-up checks during the pandemic. Image: Juuso Stoor / Yle

Ministers agreed late on Tuesday that Finland will continue to check travellers from within the EU's Schengen area.

Several sources have confirmed to Yle that current restrictions on travel within the region, which are supposed to be implemented for only six months at a time according to EU rules, will be officially extended on Thursday.

Finland has extended the measures each month since the summer, notifying the EU Commission each time.

Finland has the lowest Covid-19 case numbers in Europe, and the travel restrictions are intended to try and help prevent a surge in infections.

According to figures published on 17 November by the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Finland has some 55 infections per 100,000 residents during the previous fortnight.

Neighbouring Sweden has 511.

Different emphasis in government

Finland is looking to legislate to mandate Covid tests and quarantine for people arriving in the country. These measures would replace border checks, but the law has not yet been finalised.

The European Commission is currently analysing whether Finland's justifications for these measures are sufficient. Only two other countries are implementing similar measures, with travel to Finland only permitted if the authorities judge the trip to be absolutely necessary.

Within the government there is a divide between the left-wing parties, which favour the current strict line, and those who favour some kind of loosening.

The Swedish People's Party supports a loosening of restrictions which would permit people to travel from countries with twice as much Covid as Finland.

In practice that would only open the border to people from two countries, based on current figures.

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