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Travellers to 'high-risk' countries shouldn't get quarantine allowance, survey majority says

The government is slated to discuss possible law changes next week, according to the social affairs and health ministry.

Finavian koronan infopiste Suomeen saapuville, Helsinki-Vantaan lentoasema, 11.8.2020.
Most respondents said risky travellers should be denied per-diem quarantine allowance paid by national benefits agency Kela . Image: Jari Kovalainen / Yle

The majority of survey respondents said they think that people who visit "high-risk" countries during the coronavirus crisis should be denied a quarantine allowance, according to a poll commissioned by Yle.

More than three-out-of-four respondents — 76 percent — said that such "risk-takers" should not be eligible for allowance payments offered by the national benefits agency Kela, which aim to compensate the loss of earnings caused by a quarantine order.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) told Yle that the government is exploring whether law can be amended so that allowances are not paid to so-called "high-risk" travellers. The government is scheduled to discuss possible legislative changes next week, according to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

This summer, following a steep decline in coronavirus cases, Finland relaxed several of its coronavirus-related travel restrictions. However, as the summer progressed, new cases were confirmed, and health officials largely blamed the rise on travellers arriving from countries with high infection rates.

More than half of the survey respondents said they think the law should be changed in order to be able to deny compensation to those travellers.

One-quarter of respondents said compensations should be not be paid to individuals who do not comply with officially-issued coronavirus recommendations.

Meanwhile, 17 percent of those surveyed said they thought the situation did not call for a law change.

Constitutional law expert criticises notion

By law, Kela is charged with paying sick leave pay to workers who are ordered to stay away from work in order to prevent the spread of a communicable disease - a law which in its essence includes novel coronavirus.

There should be nothing ambiguous about the interpretation of this law, according to Pauli Rautiainen, Constitutional Law specialist and University of Tampere professor.

"If a person is quarantined, he has to receive a daily allowance, no matter how he behaved. Even if the individual was in an area at risk of infection, everyone is equal before the law," he said.

Rautiainen, who wrote about the matter in a blog post, strongly criticised the idea put forward by the PM and other cabinet ministers such as Li Andersson (Left) and Maria Ohisalo (Green) that "disgraceful" behaviour should be punished monetarily.

According to Rautiainen, moral feelings should not muddy the conversation — if the state forcibly deprives an individual of the ability to earn money, it must provide the person with an alternative income.

Earlier this week, Yle News reported how Corona-era holiday travel has divided Finland into "good" and "bad guys" — those who did right by staying in Finland, and "selfish" people who chose to holiday overseas, according to respondents to an informal Yle poll.

The survey was commissioned by Yle and carried out by polling firm Taloustutkimus, querying around 1,100 people above the age of 15 on 19-20 August. The questions were answered in an online survey, which had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points in either direction.

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