Restrictions on Passenger Flights to Finland from the UK, Ireland and South Africa to Continue until 25 January
On the advice of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom has decided to extend the restrictions on passenger air services to Finland from the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa until 25 January 2021. The decision does not concern overflights, technical intermediate stops, ferry flights with own crew, state aviation, ambulance flights or cargo flights.
In a risk assessment published on 29 December 2020, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) stated that the new COVID-19 variant detected in the UK is transmitted significantly more rapidly than the earlier strains of the virus. While no increase in infection severity has so far been identified, the new variant has the potential to cause an epidemic that spreads much faster and thus places extreme pressure on the capacity of the healthcare system. A slightly different type of virus variant has been detected in South Africa.
A number of countries have placed restrictions on travel by air and other means to countries with a high incidence of coronavirus variants.
In an opinion issued on 15 January, THL noted that the reasons it had previously given in justification of the suspension of air services between Finland and the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa have not substantially changed. The variant of the coronavirus detected in these countries, whose potential for transmission is currently estimated to be higher than that of previously identified variants, has continued to spread and a number of cases have already been reported among travellers arriving in Finland. While health security measures at airports have been reinforced, it is not yet possible to fully assess the seriousness of the threat posed by the variant with regard to the spread of the virus in Finland or the capability of the measures to minimise that threat.
The Government is scheduled to discuss possible new travel restrictions and other additional measures related to the virus variant on Friday 22 January. THL considered it necessary to continue the suspension of passenger air services between Finland and the aforementioned countries at least until more information is available on the implementation of these measures.
The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency has decided to restrict air services in accordance with the proposal put forward by THL.
The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency is the competent authority in aviation safety, security in civil aviation and aircraft noise. Traficom may, for reasons of public order and safety, prohibit an aircraft from departing, order it to land, require identification, assign a heading or flight altitude or otherwise intercept an aircraft in flight.
Jarkko Saarimäki, Deputy Director-General, jarkko.saarimaki(at)traficom.fi, Twitter @Saarimaki
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