Suspension of Passenger Flights to Finland Extended to Cover Ireland and South Africa as Well as UK — New Restrictions in Force from 11 to 18 January 2021

The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom has decided to suspend passenger air services to Finland from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the Republic of South Africa from 11 January 2021 to 18 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. 

The ECDC recommends that EU countries implement rapid measures to detect the new variant and break its chains of transmission before they can spread widely. As the majority of cases have been linked to travel, travelling to the United Kingdom and potentially other areas with a high incidence of the virus variant should be avoided and particular attention paid to health security at borders.

A traveller who arrived from South Africa has also tested positive for a slightly different type of virus variant, which may also be capable of spreading faster. Similar cases have been detected in several other countries, leading many to place restrictions on travel by air and other means to countries with a high incidence of coronavirus variants.

According to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), travellers arriving from the United Kingdom, South Africa and now Ireland constitute a significant risk factor with regard to the transmission in Finland of new variants of the COVID-19 virus. As a result, THL considered it necessary and proportionate in light of the threat caused by the pandemic that the suspension of passenger flights arriving from the United Kingdom be extended for a minimum of one week as of 11 January 2021 and an equivalent restriction imposed on passenger air services from South Africa and Ireland.

The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency decided to suspend passenger 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.