Mayor of Helsinki criticises Finland’s plan to scrap coronavirus restrictions

MAYOR OF HELSINKI Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) on Wednesday expressed his concern about the strategy to phase out the restrictions introduced to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, especially in regards to the measures at borders.

“The government’s exit plan is behind the procedures in many respects and unfeasible in perhaps the most important one: the procedures at borders can’t be scaled up infinitely,” he said on Twitter.

“If this is how we move forward, chaos will ensue at the ports of Helsinki in May.”

The government announced earlier this week it is looking to de-regulate travel within communities stretching across the border with Norway and Sweden in May. The border formalities could be scrapped for passengers bound for and arriving from Estonia and Russia in June. Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo (Greens) on Wednesday outlined that the travel restrictions will be removed gradually and replaced with a variety of health measures at borders.

Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday highlighted in its report that about 6,000 people a week have passed through ports in the capital this spring, signalling a dramatic drop from the usual volume of 26,000 a day.

The City of Helsinki underlined as early as last year that the counter-measures at border-crossing points must be founded on a sustainable basis, a message that has been echoed in the Finnish Parliament.

“Everyone should understand that the number of passengers wouldn’t have to increase much from the current levels before the port terminals are gridlocked,” said Vapaavuori. “For some reason, the government doesn’t want to do anything about this. The current way of doing things simply won’t work once the passenger numbers rise.”

The Regional State Administrative Agency (AVI) for Southern Finland has ruled that people arriving in the country can be ordered into a health examination and coronavirus test until the end of April.

The European Commission is currently preparing for the introduction of digital green certificates enabling travellers to prove they have recovered from the coronavirus disease, vaccinated against the disease or recently tested negative for the virus. A decision on the scheme to facilitate safe movement within the 27-country bloc is to be taken on 26 June.

The Finnish government is to launch an electronic certificate on omakanta.fi in May. The certificate would be linked to the bloc-wide system at a later date.

Deputy Mayor for Social Services and Health Care Sanna Vesikansa (Greens) viewed that the government is heading in the right direction with its strategy for doing away with the restrictions. Also she, however, voiced her concern about the expected surge in passenger numbers and its impact on health security at border-crossing points.

“You should make preparations for border security and draft a mode that works when the passenger numbers rise. The requirement for an advance [coronavirus] test and the obligatory nature of seeking a second test should now be promoted,” she said.

The measures at borders should be laid down in the legislation in a way that they are mandatory, according to Vesikansa.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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