Finland has reintroduced a mandatory 14-day home quarantine for arriving travellers from most countries after 24 passengers on a single flight from Skopje in North Macedonia went on to test positive for COVID-19. New arrivals will be expected to isolate at home, rather than in an institutional quarantine facility, but anyone found to be breaking the rules could face stiff penalities with a three-month prison sentence or a hefty fine on the cards.
Officials announced the new rules on Monday which will be introduced as soon as possible following a cluster of new infections traced back to newly-arrived travellers from Balkan states. Voluntary testing carried out at Turku airport on Saturday resulted in 24 positive COVID-19 cases out of a total of 157 passengers on the same flight.
Finland has only registered 7,601 cases of COVID-19 and 333 deaths from the virus since the start of the pandemic. The country normally finds just a few new cases a day but recent outbreaks have been linked to flights from Romania and North Macedonia, prompting a voluntary surveillance operation on new arrivals over the weekend.
Mandatory COVID-19 testing at Finland’s airports will now be extended with passengers selected at random on arrival. Airlines will be expected to inform passengers that they may have to undergo a test and will need to self-quarantine if they are travelling from a non-exempt country.
The rules will apply to anyone travelling from a country where there have been more than 8 to 10 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants within the last 14-days. Only 25 countries, including Italy, Japan, South Korea, Greece and Norway currently meet the exemption requirements.
Finland’s infection rate is currently 2.3 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Similar rules have been introduced in Britain, with certain countries like Spain and Belgium recently removed from a ‘safe travel corridor’ list because of a spike in infections in those countries. The UK government, however, has not released its criteria for determining which countries can be quarantine free.
Newly imposed travel restrictions and rapidly changing rules is a cause for further concern for the air and travel industry who are demanding a more nuanced approach to dealing with the threat of COVID-19 from travellers. Rather than outright travel bans or mandatory quarantine rules, they are demanding testing prior to departure or on arrival.
So far, only a small number of countries allow travellers from high-risk countries like the United States to skip quarantine by presenting a negative COVID-19 test certificate.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.