Tallink plans ticket sales to Helsinki for Estonian workers from Tuesday
Shipping line Tallink is to reopen ticket sales on Tuesday, following news that the Finnish government is opening up its borders for Estonian workers who shuttle between the two countries.
The border had been closed since mid-April in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning ferry passengers not only from Estonia, but also Sweden, were barred from entry into Finland.
Talks about granting an exception to Estonian citizens who work in Finland and are generally resident there, but have family in Estonia and often return, came to nothing.
Finnish interior minister Maria Ohisalo said Monday evening that the decision to reopen the border to Estonians working in Finland was a reflection of the fact that many Estonians had opted to stay on the Finnish side of the Gulf of Finland when the border closed, meaning they had been unable to return home to visit family (or, in fact, they could have returned home but then would not have been able to reenter Finland).
The lifting of restrictions reportedly applies to those who have employment contracts in Finland, and there are also options for entry due to "significant personal reasons" ERR's online news in Estonian reported Tuesday morning.
Estonian employees in Finland still need to self-quarantine
Estonians entering Finland in this way would need to self-quarantine, meaning they could travel back and forth between their workplace and place of residence in Finland, but not travel to other locations.
Tallink says that the status of others needing to travel to Estonia's northern neighbor remains unclear, however, including for tourist travel.
"We are looking forward to further guidance from the Finnish government on tourism travel," Katri Link, Tallink's communications manager, told ERR Tuesday morning, adding that they are currently preparing for the possibility that ticket sales may be open for tourism travel on May 14.
The dates roughly mirror the lifting of restrictions on travel to Saaremaa, the worst affected area in Estonia in the pandemic so far.
Entry was barred to all except the island's residents last month, but this was lifted from Monday for those who have second homes on the island or are registered living there but in fact live on the mainland. This means the island is still off-limits to tourists, but it is currently expected that that ban will be lifted on May 18 after the Estonian government's emergency situation, declared March 12, expires.
As of Tuesday morning, Tallink says it is planning an eight-times-per-day journey between Tallinn and Helsinki on its Megastar vessel, with an additional ship added when needed.
Katri Link also said the company is discussing the implementation of personal protective equipment and other measures with port authorities, but precise decisions have not yet been reached in this respect either.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte