Finnish, Estonian officials looking for travel restrictions solution

Tallink ship departing from Tallinn.
Tallink ship departing from Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Finnish and Estonian officials are trying to find a solution to stop the implementation of coronavirus travel restrictions between the two countries after Estonia's 14-day average went above 10 per 100,000 on Wednesday.

Most countries in Europe, including Estonia, define a safe country as having less than 17 new cases per 100,000 as a 14-day average. But Finland's limit is between eight and 10 per 100,000. A country going over 10, means a 14-day quarantine period on arrival to Finland. As thousands of Estonians move between the two countries, officials are looking for a way to avoid restrictions.

Finnish Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo, who is currently visiting Estonia, told ERR that legal, economic, social and medical aspects must be taken into account when assessing the situation.

"Everyone understands the special relationship between our countries. There are a lot of people moving between Estonia and Finland, and freedom of movement is important for the everyday life of many as well as for the functioning of both societies," the minister said.

She believes precision measures, such as double testing, could be considered instead of quarantine.

Asked why Finland uses the strictest 14-day infection rate measurement in the European Union to define safe countries when setting travel restrictions, the minister replied that this was a recommendation from health professionals.

"In the spring, we were forced to introduce very severe national restrictions, including the separation of Uusimaa County. We are currently striving to ensure that such harsh measures are no longer needed."

Estonia's average has shot up this week to 10.3 per 100,000 after outbreaks in Tartu and Ida-Viru counties in recent weeks.

Finnish and Estonia foreign minister to meet at weekend 

Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) has invited his Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto to Tallinn for the weekend to discuss the coronavirus situation in both countries.

Reinsalu told ERR he wants free movement between Estonia and Finland to continue. "We are definitely ready for additional confidence measures so that the Finnish state has confidence that there will be no additional flood of the virus from Estonia to Finland," Reinsalu said.

"This weekend I will discuss it with my Finnish colleague, I have invited him to Estonia, he is expected to come to Estonia this weekend. And I will introduce the Estonian state's proposal to him."

There are approximately 50,000 Estonians who live and work in Finland and a large number regularly travel between the two countries. During the emergency situation travel was restricted and Finland required Estonians to undergo a 14-day quarantine.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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