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Finland: Parliament Approves Quarantine of Capital Region

(Apr. 2, 2020) On March 26, 2020, the Finnish government announced a regulation requiring all residents living in Uusimaa/Nyland (the region in which the capital, Helsinki, is located) to remain quarantined within the region’s borders. The regulation was approved the following day by the Finnish Parliament, following the recommendation by the Constitutional Law Committee. (Grundlagsutskottets betänkande (Betänkande GrUB 8 2020 rd, Ö 9/2020 rd.)

The measure is supported by 118 § of the Emergency Powers Act, which allows the government to restrict the movement of people in times of crisis if it “is necessary to avert a serious danger that threatens the health or life of the people.”

The Emergency Powers Act was activated by the Finnish prime minister and president on March, 16, 2020, after the government declared a state of emergency in the country. The Act, which authorized the government to take swift action, received the required retroactive approval by the Parliament two days later.

Under the new regulation residents are prohibited from leaving Uusimaa/Nyland and nonresidents are prohibited from entering until April 19, 2020. The decision comes as the Finnish government announced that, as of March 26, 2020, 65% of all its COVID-19 cases and 82% of all of its intensive care cases were located in Uusiama/Nyland.

The regulation contains exemptions to its restrictions on movement for the following reasons, provided the activity is strictly necessary:

  • Exercising public authority
  • Engaging in work, business, studies, and responsibilities related to elected positions of trust
  • Special reasons, such as ensuring the custodial rights of divorced parents, or traveling to see immediate relatives who need care, are at risk of death, or have died.

To cross the border the individual must give an oral or written statement of the reason for the travel, and the police do not have the authority to limit the freedom of a person if he or she has a legitimate reason to travel.

By early morning on March 28, after the quarantine had entered into force at midnight, one fine had been issued, while more than 300 persons had been turned away from the regional border and told to return home.

Finland had previously shut its borders to foreigners on March 19, 2020.

On March 30, 2020, the government announced that it plans to extend all measures currently in force, including school closures and restrictions on the size of meetings, until May 13, 2020.