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Uusimaa regional border reopens

Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced on Wednesday that the ban on travel in and out of Uusimaa would be lifted.

Sisäministeri Maria Ohisalo (vas.), pääministeri Sanna Marin ja oikeusministeri Anna-Maja Henriksson hallituksen koronatilannekatsauksessa Helsingissä 15. huhtikuuta
Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo (left), Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson (right) making the announcement on Wednesday morning. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

Finland has ended restrictions on travel between Uusimaa and the rest of the country earlier than planned.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin stated at a press conference on Wednesday morning that the cordoning of the Uusimaa region is no longer considered an unavoidable measure that can be justified by emergency legislation.

She said that the parliament's Constitutional Law Committee has stressed that with a change in the situation regarding the coronavirus epidemic, the order restricting movement in and out of Uusimaa must be repealed.

There are now other regions with more cases per capita than Uusimaa, so the medical advice has changed.

The PM stressed however, that the health situation continues to be serious. Although there is no longer a legal basis for restricting movement, the government is urging people to avoid travel.

"This is not the time to leave for your holiday cottage," she said.

Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo announced that travel restrictions concerning Uusimaa will be lifted immediately after a cabinet session later on Wednesday, but that it will take some time to take down physical barriers set up to seal off the region. She also underscored the continuing importance of social distancing in battling the current epidemic.

No longer unavoidable

Referring to the travel ban, Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson stressed that restrictions on constitutional rights are possible only if unavoidable. She said that the government had listened to medical experts when making the decision to cordon off the Uusimaa region and at that time, Parliament's Constitutional Law Committee had agreed that the move was unavoidable.

Now, the government has been told by experts that the growth in coronavirus cases can be limited by other measures in use. Both the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the National Institute for Health and Welfare THL have said that the need for the closure of the Uusimaa border is no longer the same as it was when the state of emergency was rolled out.

Henriksson emphasised that Finland must adhere to the rule of law and that power may not be abused. The government's evaluation, stated Henriksson, is based in the law.

Asked if the government is taking the risk that measures up until now will have been a wasted effort, Prime Minister Marin pointed out that the epidemic has spread to different parts of the country and in some areas the number of new cases is higher than in the Uusimaa region. Justice Minister Henriksson added that Finland has the healthcare capacity to deal with the situation.

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