Finland doubles down on restrictions: Arrivals from Estonia can't enter

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Helsinki Port. Source: ERR

The restrictions on entering Finland established on February 23, have caused a lot of confusion among Estonian citizens and residents, many of whom travel between the two countries for work, family and other reasons. Since it is now necessary to present a negative coronavirus test, many people have taken that as a sign that the bar on entry for all but the most significant cases has been lifted - which it hasn't.

Only those who are able to present a negative COVID-19 test are allowed on ferries sailing between Tallinn and Helsinki. Exceptions are made for children under 13, and transport staff.

This has caused a lot of confusion and left Estonians thinking that the Finnish government has canceled the restrictions also.

Gulf of Finland Border Guard Deputy-Chief, Mikko Simola, said that the restrictions are still valid, and the requirements, which were put in place by the ferry companies themselves, haven't altered the situation.

Tallink, Eckerö and Viking started requiring negative test results after the Finnish government gave the recommendation to do so.

"If a silent hope accompanied the decision that the government would cancel its restrictions, then it turned out to be empty," ERR's Finland correspondent, Rain Kooli, says.

"The spread of the coronavirus in Estonia and the situation getting worse in Finland ensure that the restrictions will be valid until at last March 18," Kooli added.

There is no point in rushing to the ferries as a result. If the passenger is not a representative of a strategically vital field or is not resident in Finland, he or she would have to sail back even if they successfully arrived in Finland.

"For example, last week the border control sent back three times more passengers than the weeks before," Mikko Simola said.

Close to 100 people have been barred from entry over the past month.

European Commission: Finland's border regime not in line with EU

The European Commission has said that member states have to align their restrictions with their undertaken responsibilities.

Last week, the commission sent a letter to six of the EU27, saying the restrictions established by these states were not aligned with the agreed rules set in January.

Finland was one of those states listed, despite having one of the lowest COVID-19 rates in Europe. While, on February 23, the Finnish state established a negative test requirement, this didn't bring with it the hoped relaxation of the restrictions.

Latvia has also closed its border, including to EU citizens meaning, with the Russian Federation borders subject to stringent entry requirements even before the pandemic, Estonia is practically cut off from the rest of Europe, other than by air.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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