The gradual lifting of border restrictions has encouraged many people in Finland to travel abroad, prompting both the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to urge all travellers to respect recommendations and follow them to avoid infecting others.
People must also be prepared for fast-moving changes in travel restrictions, warned the Ministry’s Director General of Consular Services Pasi Tuominen.
Finland’s government had previously given the green light for travel to and from Switzerland, Slovenia and Austria, but last week it reintroduced border controls again when the coronavirus situation was found to have deteriorated in the three countries.
On Monday, travel agency Aurinkomatkat announced they are canceling trips to Spain, Croatia and Turkey for the entire month of August. The company said the decision was in line with the government’s current recommendations and was also a response to weak demand.
Tuominen said he understood that it may seem strange when restrictions on travel to certain countries are lifted to some extent, while at the same time they are reintroduced to others.
"Unfortunately, it looks like the situation in some countries is not getting any better - but rather the opposite. It is possible that there will be new restrictions and even problems with travel, but this may not come as a surprise to tourists," Tuominen said.
Travel to affected countries can expose others
The Institute for Health and Welfare emphasised that anyone with coronavirus symptoms should avoid travel -- both within Finland's borders and abroad.
People with symptoms should also arrange to be tested, the institute said.
"Finns or people living in Finland are travelling to countries where the epidemic situation is worse than it is here. The risk of contracting the virus is greater there than in Finland," the institute's leading specialist Jari Jalava wrote in a press release.
Those who travel to countries with a worse rate of infection than Finland are also putting others at risk, the institute added.
"We know of confirmed cases in Finland where the infection originated from the Balkans. For example, Spain is also a popular destination among Finns and due to the coronavirus situation, trips there are not recommended," Jalava said.
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Travellers returning from countries with a high rate of infection will receive directives from both the institute and the ministry at the border on how to minimise the potential risk.
It will also be recommended that they self-quarantine for 14 days.
"Go with a tour operator"
Tuominen added that in his opinion people who do want to travel abroad should book their trip via tour operators, instead of handling the bookings on their own.
"You should trust tour operators. The responsibility is then with them," Tuominen said, adding that under the current circumstances it is especially important that travellers ensure they have travel insurance.
If a person does fall ill during a trip abroad, the ministry advises them to contact local healthcare services, and also undertake a coronavirus test.
People displaying coronavirus symptoms should keep a safe distance from others and remember to practice good hygiene, especially when coughing and sneezing.
"When you are on holiday, you often visit the same places as many others and are close to other tourists from the rest of the world, so it is very important to take care of your hygiene," THL’s Jalava added.
Self-quarantine the best way to avoid spread of infection
Both Jalava and Tuominen said they hoped that all Finnish residents will follow the recommendations for self-quarantine after returning to Finland from abroad.
Jalava said that this is the best way to avoid spreading the virus in Finland.
"I hope that everyone would follow these recommendations carefully, but unfortunately I know that some completely ignore this. I'm not happy about that at all. I would recommend it for your own health, but mainly for the health of others. Respect the recommendations so you do not infect others," Tuominen said.
The Finnish government continues to recommend that everyone avoid travel to the countries where the restrictions still apply.
According to the Constitution, Finnish citizens always have the right to return to Finland, and Finns also have the right to leave the country.