Scared by Skopje flight, Finland to mandate COVID-19 tests for travellers

FILE PHOTO: Medical personnel wait for passengers at the coronavirus testing point of Helsinki-Vantaa Airport in Vantaa, Finland August 3, 2020. Roni Rekomaa/Lehtikuva via REUTERS

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland will introduce mandatory coronavirus tests and quarantines for travellers from certain high-risk countries, the minister in charge said on Monday, after 24 of 157 passengers arriving from Skopje in North Macedonia tested positive for COVID-19.

The voluntary testing was organised at Turku airport in Finland on Saturday for all passengers arriving on a flight from Skopje after authorities had traced flights from North Macedonia and Bucharest in Romania as two main sources of recent new coronavirus infections in Finland, the minister of family affairs and social services Krista Kiuru told reporters.

“The epidemic is native of the Balkans,” Kiuru said referring to the recent modest rise in infections in Finland.

The mandatory two-week quarantine and a possible random coronavirus test upon arrival to Finland will be applicable to anyone arriving from a country with more than 8 to 10 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the latest 14-day period, authorities said.

Currently, the rule applies to most countries, excluding 25 countries such as Italy, Japan, Greece and Norway where infections remain low.

Last week, Finland’s own infections stood at 2.3 per 100,000 inhabitants over 7 days, with altogether 7,601 cases and 333 deaths confirmed by Monday.

Kiuru said airlines would be required to inform their passengers if they could be subject to a mandatory coronavirus test upon their arrival to Finland.

Failure to respect the two-week quarantine would be sanctioned with up to three months in prison or a fine, she added.

Kiuru said the new rules would be applied as soon as possible but required some official approvals.

Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Chris Reese and Chizu Nomiyama