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Finland: Government Further Restricts Travel in Effort to Stem Spread of COVID-19

(Apr. 14, 2020) On April 7, 2020, the Finnish government announced new rules for border crossings, affecting particularly Åland (a semi-autonomous Swedish-speaking island in the Baltic Sea) and northern border regions in Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Under the new rules anyone arriving in Finland, including Åland, must spend two weeks in quarantine.

The government recommends that all sales of tickets on cruise ships and passenger ferries to Finland from neighboring Sweden, Germany, and Estonia be suspended until May 13, 2020. The ferries between Sweden and Åland are cancelled until May 13, 2020. As a result, medical staff who commute from Sweden are not able to enter Åland. The Finnish government and Åland authorities estimate that about 30 doctors and nurses commute to Åland from Sweden. In its announcement the government promised that Finnish doctors fluent in Swedish would be sent to Åland. Swedish and Norwegian medical pilots based in Åland are exempt from the quarantine requirement and can continue to work.

Finnish health care workers in the northern regions of Finland who work in northern Sweden are also exempt from the regulation, as their hospitals are heavily dependent on Finnish workers. Reportedly, the Swedish region of Lappland has promised to provide intensive care beds to Finnish residents as a trade-off to Finland provided that the border remains open, as Sweden has more intensive care beds than Finland.

Åland had previously instituted quarantine rules for persons arriving from mainland Finland before its first COVID-19 case was confirmed.

On April 4, Finland closed all restaurants and bars and now allows only carry-out service. Finnish schools will also remain closed until at least May 13, 2020.

As of April 13, 2020, Finland had confirmed 3,064 cases of COVID-19, including a total of 59 fatalities in the country.