Shipping line Tallink says travel restrictions imposed by the Finnish government last month amid fears of rising coronavirus rates and reports of more virulent strains of COVID-19 have been followed by a halving of its passenger numbers.
Tallink says its Star and Megastar vessels carried fewer than 3,000 people last week, almost half the already reduced figure before the restrictions were introduced.
Even in January, Tallink passenger numbers between Estonia and Finland, at 93,000, were already less than a third the figure for the same month in 2019 (330,000), the company says.
Katri Link, Tallink's Head of Communications, told ERR Wednesday that: "Restrictions on free movement between countries have had an immediate effect on our passenger numbers."
Around 800 passengers per day and 5,500 per week had availed themselves of Tallink's services between Tallinn and Helsinki in the first half of January, the company says.
The Finnish government is to decide on whether to prolong its restrictions, currently set to run until February 25, later this week, with an announcement expected Friday.
The current regime, which came into force on January 27, grants exemptions to healthcare professionals, family members of Finnish citizens, those traveling for unavoidable family reasons, the diplomatic corps and a few other groups.
Most people who worked in either country and lived in the other had made the trip across the gulf of Finland during the latest restrictions, Link added.
While Tallink CEO Paavo Nõgene was unable to comment ahead of Friday's Finnish government decision, Estonia's prime minister, Kaja Kallas (Reform), is heading to Helsinki on the same day, for a meeting with her Finnish opposite number Sanna Marin.
Finland's current, 14-day coronavirus rate of infection is 97 per 100,000 inhabitants while Estonia's is over 600.
Large numbers of Estonian citizens and residents work in Finland in various sectors, including in healthcare and construction. As with the restrictions during the initial COVID-19 wave in spring, many such individuals have had to in effect choose which side of the Gulf of Finland to stay on, once restrictions come into effect.
Editor: Andrew Whyte