Saturday 10/23/21

Finnish government extends entry restrictions until after elections

The 5-party coalition government does not want any unpleasant surprises ahead of the elections to be held on 13 June now that the polls do not predict good results for the ruling parties.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin speaking before Parliament. Photo: Hanne Salonen/Eduskunta.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin speaking before Parliament. Photo: Hanne Salonen/Eduskunta/file photo.

It does not matter that the incidence of new cases of Covid-19 has dropped and that vaccination is progressing at a good pace. Nor do they care that the European Commission (EU) recommended on Wednesday to open the borders of the 27 member states for vaccinated tourists from third countries.

The Finnish government, a coalition of 5 center-left parties, does not want shocks or unpleasant surprises, especially before the municipal elections to be held on 13 June. Electoral polls have long shown the erosion of support for the government and do not predict good results for the ruling parties.

Two and a half weeks before the vote, polls rank Prime Minister Sanna Marin's party (SDP) third in voting intentions, behind right-wing opponents of the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) and True Finns. (Perussuomalaiset).

In this context, the government does not want an increase in infections to further harm its electoral chances.

Meanwhile, companies in the tourism sector complain that summer will be lost again for their businesses. And many Finns in the media and on social networks accuse cabinet ministers, and in particular Marin, of being unable to make decisions and worrying more about their own image than about the country's problems.

The latest monitoring report on the epidemic released by the government on Thursday shows a new drop in the number of cases in the most recent week. However, the government decided on Thursday to extend the restrictions on entry into the country at least until 15 June, two days after the elections.

According to the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), at the time of writing this article, the incidence in Finland was 51.7 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last two weeks.

"The Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread, and we do not yet have adequate measures available to replace the restrictions. For this reason, and to curb the spread of Covid-19 variants, both internal border controls and restrictions on external border traffic will continue," the Ministry of the Interior said in a statement.

In practice, this means that Finland will continue to restrict entry from all other Schengen countries except Iceland.

The Schengen countries are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden, which are EU Member States, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, which are non-EU countries.

External border traffic

With regard to external border traffic (between Finland and non-Schengen states), entry restrictions will be lifted for residents of Israel arriving in Finland from Israel, but reinstated for residents of Thailand.

Restrictions have been lifted earlier for traffic arriving in Finland from the Vatican, and for traffic between Finland and Australia, South Korea, Singapore, Rwanda, and New Zealand, all with low incidence of Covid-19.

For other countries, the restrictions on entry will be also extended until 15 June 2021.

Restrictions will be also lifted for residents of border communities between Finland and Norway.

Cruise vessels are permitted to call at ports but passengers are not allowed to come ashore.