Paper: Coronavirus research council cautious on Finnish border reopening

Professor Irja Lutsar.
Professor Irja Lutsar. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Members of the government's coronavirus research council have expressed their reservations about planned free movement between Finland and Estonia due to start Thursday.

Since the number of people infected with coronavirus is three times higher in Finland than it is in Estonia, the council has proposed that Estonians returning home from Finland should be placed under quarantine and tested for the virus, virology professor and head of the government's council Irja Lutsar told daily Postimees (link in Estonian).

Citing University of Tartu professor of statistics Krista Fischer, professor Lutsar said that while Latvia and Lithuania were of less concern, an eye needed to be kept on the situation in Finland as that country reopens its borders.

Finland and Estonia have a maritime border, Estonia and Latvia share a land border, with Latvia in turn having a land border with Lithuania.

"In Latvia and Lithuania, our epidemiological situation is quite similar and no additional measures are needed," Lutsar told Postimees.

Finland closed its borders to ferry passengers on April 11 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning the tens of thousands of Estonians who work in the country faced a choice on which side of the Gulf of Finland to remain on. On May 5, the Finnish government announced that restriction was to be lifted, though Estonians returning there for work are likely to have to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, meaning they could travel between home and work and for essential shopping etc. but in no other case. The question works the other way round too, as the scientific council noted that those Estonians who stayed in Finland through April and early May and want to return to Estonia to visit family and friends would ideally self-quarantine upon arrival as well.

According to Fischer, what happens in Estonia when the border is opened here largely depends on how striclty the public follows the recommendations.

Even a single individual can be responsible for a significant spread by not following the regulations, she said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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