Finland is set to be the next EU nation to open its borders to all travelers, including higher-risk Covid countries such as the U.S.

The country is poised to bring in mandatory testing rules in October which means even those from lands with much higher infection rates will be welcome.

Finland will soon “relax travel restrictions” and “implement a test-based scheme” reports public broadcaster YLE.

“Travel to Finland will soon be possible from more countries, but mandatory coronavirus testing is likely to be introduced,” it says.

The testing strategy is now confirmed by the government.

“The Finnish government on Thursday decided to scale down its restrictions on cross-border travel,” reports theHelsinki Times.

Medical staff ready to test passengers for Covid at Helsinki airport Finland
A coronavirus testing centre at Helsinki Airport in Finland. Finland is openings its borders to more Europeans by lowering its infection rate threshold, as the country also moves away from travel bans and quarantine rules to testing requirements for high-risk countries. From some time in October, Americans and others should be able to travel to Finland. LEHTIKUVA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Finnish Quarantine Rules Relaxed–Starting With Europeans

The rules are due to take effect from September 14. But not everyone will be welcome at the outset.

Finns or foreigners arriving from Schengen countries with 25 or less cases per 100,000 people in the past fortnight no longer face compulsory testing or quarantine.

Until now, quarantine was required for places with eight or more cases per 100,000. The government also advised against all but essential travel to destinations with a Covid incidence higher than its own– currently at 8.5 per 100,000.

This ruled out tourism even to many relatively low-risk European neighbors, as well as high-risk red zones.

  • With the latest move, travel will again be possible to and from Denmark, Norway and Sweden. As it should be for many parts of South-East Asia and Africa, plus Australia, China and others going by current European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data.
  • Whereas travel to/from places including France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Czechia, Croatia, the Netherlands, the U.K., the U.S. and Brazil is still off the cards. Though not for long.

Next, Testing Will Mean Opening To Everyone

FINLAND-HEALTH-VIRUS-TRANSPORT
Finnish passengers returning from Europe travels wear face masks at the Helsinki Airport in Finland. LEHTIKUVA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Finland will raise the Covid infection threshold by October, to allow visits worldwide.

The plan hinges on the introduction of new laws to cater for a “testing-based entry model” reports Helsinki Times.

For travelers from countries where Covid infection rates are above 25/100,000, a negative test result will be required on arrival.

According to Reuters, travelers must then remain in self-isolation until they produce a second negative test.

The United States according to the ECDC is averaging over 120 cases per 100,000, so way above the Finnish and European yardstick.

Finns Falling In Line With New EU Testing And Open Border Push

Passengers at the COVID-19 health information point of the Helsinki airport Finland EU
The EU wants members like Finland to do more testing and let in an increasing number of travelers even from high-risk countries. Green/red/orange color codes for countries it says should also tie in with the percentage of positive tests. LEHTIKUVA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

The EU is encouraging members to open borders to countries with no more than 25–50 coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

For “red zones” over this level, it says, member countries should propose quarantine. And that seems exactly to be what Finland has in mind.

Finnish Transport Minister, Timo Harakka, said a draft bill will make proof of a negative corona test mandatory for passengers from red zones.

Most Baltic and Nordic countries are expected to be exempt from the rule.

Economic Affairs Minister, Mika Lintilä, heralded the step as great news for leisure and business travel–and for the tourism industry.

“I’m sorry that it took so long, but better late than never,” he said. “Finnair will now return to the competitive market where it has been with its European competitors.”

Some tourism operators are less than enthusiastic however.

“Flight ticket €190, Covid test €210,” tweeted Lapland SantaPark entrepreneur, Ilkka Länkinen, who fears the prohibitive cost will hit winter tourism.

Yet many, including the Finnish government, feel Covid tests are the only thing that will make full EU border reopening possible.

“The purpose is to make tourism to Finland possible and safe for health,” said Harakka.

Interior Minister, Maria Ohisalo, says internal Schengen border controls will remain until the testing laws are in place.

FINLAND-POLITICS-HEALTH-VIRUS-TRAVEL
Finland’s Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintila on the left, Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo and Minister of Transport Timo Harakka announce easing of Covid travel restrictions at a press conference on September 11 in Helsinki.  LEHTIKUVA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

More Tests Allow EU Borders To Gradually Open To All

Amid a marked European Covid comeback over the past month, some wonder whether borders opened too quickly.

Croatia, an EU but not Schengen member, has been welcoming Americans and others officially from early July. Testing requirements stiffened as corona cases soared. Malta became the first EU and Schengen member to open to everyone in August.

Now it remains to be seen how many decide to take the Finnish direction, in order to resurrect some of the winter tourism season too, after struggling through a sluggish Covid summer.

Forbes

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