Finland is to implement tighter restrictions on tourists from Estonia from Monday, September 28 following a rise in COVID-19, which would mean quarantine on arrival for 14 days. Only people traveling for work will be able to do so without quarantining.
"If you go on a holiday trip to Tallinn, then a two-week quarantine recommendation goes into effect [on return to Finland]," Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior Kirsi Pimiä told public broadcaster Yle's English-language page.
The new restrictions come into effect on Monday, September 28.
The development clarifies the situation after foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said earlier this week that quarantine-free travel to and from Finland would only be permitted for those traveling for work from next week, an announcement which the Finnish media said had been news to them.
Speaking about the meeting with Marin and the new travel restrictions, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas told ERR on Wednesday: "It was important for Estonia that tourism between the two countries recovered in the spring and summer, but now the situation between Estonia and Finland is changing. The Finnish government will make a decision tomorrow. From Monday, tourists will not be able to travel between the two countries, although trade will remain and people working on both sides of the bay will be able to continue to travel."
Ratas said state support for the tourism industry is still being considered and discussions about direct flight restrictions are ongoing.
"I fully agree with this that the flight restrictions need to be reviewed. If we look at Helsinki and Riga airports, there are essentially no restrictions on flying to other countries," he said.
He also said it is sensible for people to wear masks indoors, but emphasised this is not mandatory.
Finnish Interior minister Maria Ohisalo had previously told Finnish daily newspaper Ilta-Sanomat that people would still be able to travel to and from work and conduct other daily business between Finland and Estonia without any quarantine requirement, provided the disparity between Finland's COVID-19 rate per 100,000 and that of Estonia was similar.
At the time of writing, Finland's rate is a little over 10 per 100,000 people as a 14-day average compared with 30.08 per 100,000 for Estonia.
On September 19, Finland changed its coronavirus quarantine threshold from eight to 25 per 100,000.
Finland's border guard said that most likely land border checks would be reinstated on that country's northerly frontiers with Sweden and Norway, as well as at the maritime border for arrivals in ports from Estonia and elsewhere.
Update: On Thursday, the Finnish government said tourists would not be allowed to enter Finland from Monday, September 28. More information can be read here in English.
Ratas: Estonian-Finnish work, family links significant
The announcement coincided with a meeting in Helsinki between Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), Minister of Foreign Affair Urmas Reinsalu and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin. The importance of continuity in travel for work between Estonia and Finland was discussed.
"We are very pleased that cross-border work travel between Estonia and Finland will continue, as this bears a significant impact on the economic well-being of many families and also on both of our two countries," Ratas said after the meeting.
Reinsalu said: "We consider it important to coordinate things closely when setting travel restrictions. It is crucial for us to maintain the free movement of employees when imposing possible restrictions on travel to Finland."
Other topics on the table included bilateral relations and digital issues, including cross-border data exchange, in the light of the pandemic.
After the meeting in Helsinki, Ratas traveled on to Sweden to meet with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.
Estonia and Sweden are to celebrate the centennial of bilateral relations in a few months, Ratas noted, and extended an invitation for the country to join Estonia's X-Road e-governance framework.
The ongoing situation in Belarus and the violent crackdowns on protesters following the presidential elections in that country last month were also discussed.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Helen Wright