Finland closes borders with Norway and Sweden due to Covid-19 variant

Finland closes borders with Norway and Sweden due to Covid-19 variant
File photo: AFP
In an effort to shield itself from mutated Covid-19 variants, Finland is hunkering down and closing its borders to European arrivals, including its Nordic neighbours.

The travel ban comes into effect Wednesday and will last until February 25th. It includes everyone arriving from Schengen countries.

“The new restrictions aim to reduce cross-border traffic in order to prevent the spread of the new Covid-19 variants,” the Finnish Ministry of the Interior announced in a press release.

“The epidemiological situation in Finland differs considerably from that in other Schengen countries. For this reason, the risk that travellers might spread the virus variants is significant in Finland,” it continued.

Only essential travel for work or other reasons, such as healthcare and freight transport, will be permitted.

Finland has so far only recorded 43,000 Covid-19 cases and 655 deaths, according to recent figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Norway has recorded 62,000 cases and 550 deaths, while Denmark has 197,000 cases and 2,000 deaths.

Sweden, meanwhile, has far surpassed its Nordic neighbours. The country has recorded 556,000 cases and over 11,000 coronavirus related deaths.

Swedish travel ban

The Swedish government announced its own travel ban on entry from Norway on Sunday, citing concerns about growing number of cases of the mutated virus variant in the region around Oslo.

READ ALSO: Sweden bans travel from Norway

“The ban applies from midnight until February 14th and can be extended if necessary,” Interior Minister Mikael Damberg said at a digital press conference on Sunday afternoon.

The Norwegian government last weekend introduced very strict restrictions in Oslo and 24 surrounding municipalities, due to an outbreak of the more contagious coronavirus variant B117, first identified in Britain.

135 cases of the variant had been identified in Norway as of Wednesday, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH).

The variant already exists in Sweden. So far, however, only about 50 cases have been confirmed. The vast majority of them are linked to people who have been abroad, according to the Swedish Public Health Agency.

The government's decision on the Norway travel ban follows a recommendation from the Swedish Public Health Agency.

“It is an exceptional decision, not least considering the long land border between the countries,” Damberg said.

Sweden also extended its entry ban on people arriving from the United Kingdom and Denmark until February 14th.

At the same time, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs also reintroduced advice against unnecessary travel to Norway. That decision is valid until further notice.

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