Finland's government has submitted a proposal to Parliament on amending the Communicable Diseases Act to allow domestic use of the EU digital coronavirus certificate.
News agency STT reports that the government has approved the long-awaited domestic use of the coronavirus pass.
According to Yle sources, private companies will be allowed to require a valid coronavirus pass for entry by anyone over 12 years of age in areas where restrictions are in effect.
For example, restaurants, cultural events and hobby organisers may require customers to show a pass for entry. If so, they would not need to follow other restrictions on gatherings that might be in force in the area.
In practice, the EU coronavirus certificate, which is already available via the official health site My Kanta, will serve as a coronavirus pass. The document certifies if an individual has had a complete coronavirus vaccination series, a recent negative coronavirus test result, or has had the illness.
Bill behind schedule, may become moot anyway
The significance of the coronavirus pass may ultimately be negligible. The government has promised to lift restrictions as early as October if the target of 80 percent vaccine coverage among people aged 12 and over is achieved. As of Tuesday that figure was 66.6 percent.
The bill is behind schedule, as it was to have been presented to Parliament in mid-September. Due to parliamentary proceedings, implementation may be delayed until mid-October. The events industry has been calling for the use of Covid passes for months.
The coronavirus pass could however be useful if the epidemic situation worsens again, and restrictions have to be reintroduced.
Free testing for unvaccinated minors, others must pay
According to the proposal, testing of unvaccinated minors aged 12-17 will be free of charge from public health clinics. Other unvaccinated people will have to pay for the testing themselves via private healthcare providers.
According to government sources, the primary aim of the pass is to allow events to re-open safely, not to increase vaccine coverage. However, anyone who can currently take the vaccines is encouraged to do so.
The coronavirus pass is to be added to section 58 of the Communicable Diseases Act, which defines measures related to the high risk of infection.
Companies that do not use the coronavirus pass for entry must comply with any existing safety restrictions such as social distancing or limits to capacity and/or opening hours.
The use of the coronavirus pass is to be limited to private companies, as no one can be prevented from accessing public services such as libraries, museums or swimming pools. This would have caused constitutional problems.
No changes to current border entry restrictions
In an afternoon press conference that was postponed from the morning, Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) confirmed that there will be no changes to Finland's current cross-border entry regulations, which are to be extended until the end of the year.
Kiuru stated that a lot of false information is circulating about Finland's restrictions on entry, but the current measures are in line with the EU average.
"It must be remembered that some 300 million fully-vaccinated EU citizens can enter Finland freely: so come and enjoy autumn or the land of Santa Claus," she said.
Travellers from high-risk countries do not need to take a coronavirus test in Finland if they have a certificate proving a complete series of vaccinations or having had coronavirus within the previous six months. In other cases, testing will be mandatory.
In its updated coronavirus strategy, the government said that border security measures will continue at least until 80 percent vaccine coverage is achieved.
According to Yle's information, the morning press conference was postponed until the afternoon due to a dispute between government coalition partners over proposed changes to entry restrictions, but Kiuru said the delay was due to administrative issues.
"It took a little longer than expected to complete the draft. Last night, some translations were made in a hurry and unfortunately we were unable to hold a government session or a press conference in the morning, as there was a three-hour delay," the minister explained.