The Finnish government has issued a ban on commuting to Finland from Estonia from Sunday night, reversing a move which had allowed this to happen for Estonians holding Finnish residency permits as an exception to quarantine conditions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Finnish government's crisis committee made the decision Thursday night, ERR's online news in Estonian reports, and will take effect from Sunday, March 22, at midnight.
Those who permanently reside in Estonia but commute regularly to Finland for work must now decide which side of the Gulf of Finland they will remain on while the emergency situation persists. Both countries require all those arriving, including citizens, to undergo 14 days' quarantine as a coronavirus measure.
The Finnish state is not obstructing Estonian citizens wishing to leave Finland, but those doing so would not be able to reenter the country from March 22 even if they have an employment contract there, other than undergoing quarantine.
Finnish Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo (Vihreä liitto) said the decision came after consultation with representatives of the parliamentary groups at the Eduskunta. She expressed the hope that those working in Finland, including Estonians, would not leave the country.
"Hopefully, people permanently working in Finland will stay in Finland in this situation and follow the instructions given by the public to protect themselves against the coronavirus. The decision is difficult, but it is needed to fight the virus," Ohisalo tweeted late on Thursday night (see tweet below, in Finnish).
Only 24 hours earlier, Finland had granted Estonian citizens an exemption from quarantining, if they had Finnish residency permission and worked there. This exception now only applies on Finland's borders with Sweden and Norway.
Hallituksen viisikko kokoontui tänään käsittelemään eräitä #koronavirukseen liittyviä asioita.— Maria Ohisalo (@MariaOhisalo) March 19, 2020
Näimme tarpeelliseksi tarkentaa rajanylityskäytäntöjä. Työmatkaliikennettä on valitettavasti välttämätöntä poikkeusoloissa rajoittaa merkittävästi. 1/2 https://t.co/yZedLQRhHp
Approximately 50,000 Estonians hold a permanent right of residence in Finland, with a further 20,000 holding a temporary right of residence.
Editor: Andrew Whyte