June 23, 2020 / 3:08 PM / 21 days ago

Finland to open up for some European leisure travellers

HELSINKI (Reuters) - The Finnish government announced plans on Tuesday to scrap a 14-day quarantine period for leisure travellers arriving from some other European countries from July 13, provided COVID-19 infection rates do not rise.

Countries that qualify for the easing of restrictions will be those where infections do not pass a maximum of eight cases per 100,000 inhabitants over a period of two weeks, Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo said.

On the basis of Tuesday’s numbers, this would include Italy, Germany, Austria, Greece, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Lichtenstein, Croatia, Cyprus and Ireland, the government said.

It said it would confirm the list of qualifying countries closer to the date. Finland had until now allowed only work-related travel from most countries.

Ohisalo said the government continued to urge caution so as not to put at risk the positive developments seen in fighting COVID-19 in Finland, where the infection rate has been 3.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past two weeks.

The 14-day quarantine rule will remain for travellers from Sweden. The Finnish government cited European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data as putting the infection rate in Sweden at 118.8 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on Sunday.

Last week, Finland lifted coronavirus-related restrictions on leisure travel from neighbouring Baltic and Nordic countries but excluded Sweden. [L8N2DO2BF]

Sweden has adopted fewer restrictions than its neighbours and, by Tuesday, had recorded 5,122 COVID-19 deaths — more than four times the number in the other Nordic countries combined.

Finland had recorded 327 COVID-19 deaths by Tuesday. It has confirmed 7,155 cases of the disease.

The Finnish government also decided to scrap specific guidelines for people over 70, such as recommendations to avoid physical contact and meet people only outdoors. It set Aug. 1 as the end-date for a recommendation to all residents to work remotely whenever possible.

Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Alex Richardson and Timothy Heritage

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