Finland announced on Thursday that it would ease border controls with Norway, Denmark, Iceland and the three Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from next Monday. However, Finland still abstained from wider relaxation with the rest of the Schengen area, and neighbouring Sweden was exempted from the easing.
According to the government arrangement, Finland will relax entry controls in air transport and scheduled ferry services from the six listed countries from next Monday.
The decisions also mean that Finnish residents who have gone to those countries can return to Finland without having to take a 14-day quarantine.
Border controls for arrivals from Sweden would continue. Finnish Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo said at a press conference that the COVID-19 epidemic situation in Sweden does not make it possible to ease entry to Finland, though Finland keeps evaluating the situation in Sweden.
In a move concerning the whole Schengen area, however, Finland will allow the entry of those residents of the Schengen countries who have property in Finland or have a relationship or date with someone in Finland. Ohisalo said that border guards will accept an oral statement from the visitors about the dating, no other proof is required.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said that Finland would appreciate reciprocity in these actions. He noted that the Baltic countries had already earlier opened their borders to Finns.
Haavisto said he was expecting decisions from Norway and Denmark shortly, but Finland had already done its part now.
Haavisto said people in Finland can go to other countries than the six, at their own risk, but would face the 14-day quarantine upon back-arrival. Asked specifically about Germany, Haavisto noted that Germany is a major transit country in European transport, and thus Finland at this phase was not able to ease travel from Germany.
In domestic rules, the Finnish government announced that outdoor events for over 500 people would be allowed from the beginning of July. However, extraordinary measures would be required, such as spacing rules for those who stand in the open.
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) on Thursday said the infection rate of COVID-19 in Finland has remained well under one despite relaxation of some restrictions, which means the easing has not produced an infection hike in the country so far.
Jussi Sane, a senior expert at THL, stressed at a press conference that the R-rate this week is 0.7-0.8 and it is yet too early to assess the impact of the reopening of restaurants in Finland from the beginning of June. He said it has been possible to trace down all recent infection cases, and there have been no undefined chains of infection recently.
Sane urged citizens to continue to pay attention to restrictions and personal behaviour, in order to protect themselves from the virus.
As the COVID-19 restrictive measures have been gradually eased in Finland, primary schools and lower secondary schools throughout the country reopened in mid-May, though summer holiday is coming. Restaurants and cafes throughout the country were allowed to reopen from June 1, with restrictions on opening hours and the number of customers indoors at one time.