Tightened travel restrictions would be most visible in traffic between Estonia and Finland. Restrictions on the free movement of the so-called border community in the Western North on the Swedish-Finnish border have also been discussed.
Government decisions are expected today on significant restrictions on cross-border traffic.
Ministry of the Interior has prepared a model, where, for the most part, one could enter the country only for jobs that are central to Finland ‘s security of supply and the functioning of society. You could also come to Finland, for example, on the basis of proven family reasons.
Such a tightening of border traffic will not bring major changes to the Border Guard’s operations, as there is experience of a similar situation already in the spring, says the Border Guard’s communications expert, Lieutenant Colonel. Ilkka Herranen.
In the spring, Finland restricted traffic so that in practice only necessary commuting was allowed.
“This would go to a situation that was already implemented earlier. Of course, it would have an effect on those traveling to Finland, ”says Herranen.
Herrasen According to him, a possible tightening would have the strongest effect on traffic between Finland and Estonia. This year, about 30,000 people a week have traveled from Estonia to Helsinki.
“Estonia has a lot of people from different fields working for us. The movement of labor in the Schengen area has been free since the summer, but now it will be subject to this obligation of security of supply. ”
For example, construction work last spring was not considered central to the functioning of society. If the same criterion comes into force, those coming from Estonia to Finland for construction work could not pass between the countries as now.
“In a way, they should choose whether they are here in Finland or in Estonia. This would be repeated to some extent as then in the spring, ”says Herranen.
Restrictions on border traffic and travel do not apply to Finnish citizens and permanent residents. They have the right to leave the country and return, with some rare exceptions.
For this reason, the Border Guard does not ask or record the reasons for Finns’ trips abroad during a pandemic.
Border Guard does not itself define work tasks that are critical to security of supply. According to Herranen, this is done by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy. Updates to this list compared to spring are also expected.
In the spring, critical employees included, among others, freight transport drivers, health and rescue professionals, and elderly care professionals.
In practice, in the spring, the person crossing the border had to carry a form filled in by the employer, which confirmed the nature of the task as central to society. If a similar decision came into force, the form would be used this time as well.
“In the spring, this restriction system was built from virtually zero. Now it has been practiced for months, so the practices are clear, ”says Herranen.
Government Restrictions on the free movement of the so-called border community have also been raised in the run-up to Friday’s meeting. This applies to the border between Sweden and Finland in the western North, where more than one hundred thousand people travel every week.
As a result of the restriction, the Swedish side would no longer be able to travel to Finland on the grounds that he lives in a municipality in the border community. In the future, those who come to the country should meet either the requirement of commuting or family reasons, which is central to the functioning of society, Herranen says.
According to Herranen, the family reason is checked at the border in practice, so that the Border Guard ensures from the information systems in use that the family connection reported by the immigrant is correct.
Some tightening of the definition of a family district is also expected.
“Now we have come to meet cousins and aunts, for example,” Herranen says.
Border traffic The tightening is due to the weaker virus situation in neighboring countries than in Finland and the threat of a more rapidly spreading virus variant.
Chief Physician of the Department of Health and Welfare Taneli Puumalainen emphasized the importance of cross-border health security at a press conference on Thursday. According to Puumalainen, the number of cases of infection from abroad is currently higher than in the autumn.
The share of foreign infections has risen in recent weeks. It currently accounts for about 13 percent of all new infections diagnosed. In reality, according to Puumalainen, the share is even higher.
The new restrictions are expected to take effect next week. Preliminary calculation according to their strictest, they could reduce tourism between Estonia and Finland by 75 percent. The range of estimates is from 25 percent to 75 percent.
There are no decisions on any restrictions yet. The Board has met at the Estate House about half past one.