March 17, 2020 / 3:53 PM / in 19 days

Finland to restrict traffic over its borders

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland will start heavily restricting traffic over its borders on Thursday in an attempt to contain the coronavirus outbreak, Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo said.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin attends a news conference on coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Helsinki, Finland March 17, 2020. Lehtikuva/Mikko Stig via REUTERS

Finland’s centre-left government approved legislation on Tuesday to adopt a state of emergency which the parliament is expected to approve on Wednesday.

“Goods and cargo transports will continue across all borders. Indispensable work-related travelling will still be possible and continues within EU borders,” Ohisalo told a news conference.

Ohisalo said permanent residents would be allowed to return and foreign travellers to leave the country.

Travelling abroad should be avoided and the restrictions were valid until April 13, the government said.

Passenger railway traffic between Finland and neighbouring Russia will end tomorrow, it added.

The government said it would allow drug retailers to place sale restrictions to ensure availability for those in most urgent need and also assess whether it was necessary to restrict drug and healthcare gear exports.

“In Finland we have good reserves of both drugs and gear... but many other countries would like to gain access to these reserves at the moment and we seek to ensure that we ourselves have these buffer stocks available,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin said.

“Going forward, we consider it important that we can assess whether it will be necessary to restrict exports of drugs and medical gear,” social affairs and healthcare minister Aino-Kaisa Pekonen added.

Finland’s health authority had confirmed 319 coronavirus cases but no deaths by Tuesday, but it said the total number was not reflective of actual cases as testing has been limited to certain groups only since last week.

Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Jon Boyle

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