On October 15, 2021, the Finnish Parliament voted to adopt rules for using COVID-19 passports to access certain public spaces while COVID-19 restrictions are in force. The proposal easily passed with 105 votes in favor, 33 votes against, and 60 members of Parliament absent.
In accordance with the new rules, which amend the Infectious Disease Act (Lag om smittsamma sjukdomar (FFS 2016/1227)), all persons present in Finland 16 years of age or older must present a COVID-19 passport to access restaurants, gyms, indoor playgrounds, museums, public saunas, and other spaces made available to the public while COVID-19 restrictions are in effect. The use of the national electronic COVID-19 passport builds on the recommendation from the European Union (EU). Restaurants and other vendors are not required to use the COVID-19 passport, but any actor who does not use the COVID-19 passport to access the premises will continue to be subject to special COVID-19 restrictions, including social distancing and maximum capacity limits. COVID-19 passports will not exempt vendors from adhering to COVID-19 restrictions that require them to close. (58 i § Infectious Disease Act as amended.)
In accordance with the amended section 58 i of the Infectious Disease Act, to receive a COVID-19 passport (also known as a COVID certificate), a person must have been fully vaccinated for at least one week, have received a negative COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours earlier, or have recovered from COVID-19. The electronic COVID passport may be downloaded from the Kanta website. In lieu of the EU-wide COVID-19 passport app, persons may also present an approved foreign vaccination record that demonstrates that the bearer of the record is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The parliamentary Social Affairs and Health Committee revised the original government proposal by changing the age requirements for using the passport. As originally proposed by the Finnish government, the COVID passport was to apply to anyone age 12 or older, but the Social Affairs and Health Committee, relying on comments from the Constitutional Committee, changed the provision to apply only to persons age 16 and above. The same rules thereby apply for public venues as for entering Finland from abroad — that is, persons above 16 must show a COVID-19 passport to enter both Finland and a restaurant.
For minors age 16 and 17 who are required to present a COVID-19 passport but who have not been able to receive a vaccination, a COVID-19 test must be provided free of charge by the municipality. (58 k § as amended.)
The amendment to the Infectious Disease Act also extends the provision in section 87 a, which stipulates that persons who fail to get the COVID-19 test mandated by the Infectious Disease Act may be fined in court. That provision was previously set to expire on October 15, 2021. (FFS 701/2021.) The amendment thus eliminates a set end date for the monetary fine provision.
The new amendment also includes several provisions related to travel to Finland. In accordance with the amended Infectious Disease Act, foreign travelers coming to Finland must continue to be tested for COVID-19 infections immediately upon arrival, and if testing sites are unavailable they must receive the test no later than 24 hours after arrival. (16 b § as amended.) Finnish citizens and residents of Finland who present a negative COVID-19 test that is not more than 72 hours old need not take any further tests upon arrival in Finland. (16 a § as amended.)
Reportedly, several vendors began using the COVID-19 passport immediately on October 16, 2021. There have also been reports of public protests against the adoption of the COVID-19 passport.