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Uusimaa closure: Police can fine those who break the rules

Hundreds of police officers and possibly military conscripts are to virtually seal off the southern Uusimaa region.

Poliisin tiedotustilaisuus.
Sanna Heikinheimo of the Finnish Police Board (left) explains forthcoming Uusimaa border procedures at Thursday's police press conference. Image: Yle

Finland is gearing up to use emergency legislation to prevent most individuals from leaving or entering Uusimaa, the region currently hardest-hit by coronavirus infections in Finland.

Police are calling on Uusimaa residents to stay put and not attempt to find loopholes that would allow them to cross the Uusimaa border.

“Those who try to be smart by bypassing the police risk the punishment of falling ill. Don’t do it,” said police on Thursday.

Trespassers may be issued fines, according to police. Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen has said that conscripts and Defence Force personnel can be rapidly deployed to help enforce movement restrictions in and out of the Uusimaa region.

On Thursday afternoon Kaikkonen said that the Finnish Defence Forces (FDF) have received an official request for assistance in enforcing planned restrictions on the Uusimaa border.

Kaikkonen told Yle that it is possible that hundreds of military conscripts could begin helping police as early as Friday.

"The FDF has the readiness to begin quite quickly, even tomorrow if need be. Of course the matter still needs to be considered by Parliament," he said.

"The scale is such that we're talking about several hundred conscripts. The operation will also require the participation of the FDF's permanent staff," Kaikkonen added.

Legitimate grounds

Deputy national police commissioner Sanna Heikinheimo noted people still have the right to find their way home, but that officers will stop vehicles from passing in order to determine whether they can enter.

There are many exceptions, but those wanting to cross the regional boundary will need to present written justification or provide a verbal explanation for their reason for travelling.

Some of the exceptions qualifying individuals to enter or leave the region include governmental assignments, business activities, essential work trips, the death of a relative, child care, the need to tend to sick relatives, among others.

People travelling for leisure will not be permitted to cross, according to Heikinheimo, who added that a comprehensive list of exceptions was not possible, saying that discretion about the regulations will be left to officers and decisions about who can pass will be made on-site.

Authorities are expected to question individuals, asking for identification, nationality and other personal information.

According to police officials who spoke to the media on Thursday morning, enforcement of the laws will require the deployment of hundreds of police officers across all of Uusimaa, particularly at entry points to the region, including major motorways and small roads.

Around 75 percent of the country’s Covid-19 infections have been detected in Uusimaa, a large region that also includes greater Helsinki, stretching from the south-western port town of Hanko eastward to Lapinjärvi municipality - a distance of around 230km.

The region is home to nearly one-third of Finland’s population, or about 1.7 million people.

Police commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen said that while police will have a major enforcement presence, it is still up to residents to follow the rules.

Kolehmainen said that after Parliament approves the measure, enforcement will begin, with officers providing advice and instruction to drivers trying to cross the increasingly protected borders of the region, adding that any violation of emergency laws was serious.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin has suggested that the rules could come into effect this Friday, 27 March.

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