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World News

Finland returns travel restrictions for several countries

Passengers ask for instructions at the COVID-19 Health Information Point of Helsinki-Vantaa Airport in Vantaa, Finland August 3, 2020. Roni Rekomaa/Lehtikuva via REUTERS

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland said on Wednesday it will bring back travel restrictions for several countries which it had for months considered safe destinations, including Germany and its Nordic neighbours, to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Travelling from Iceland, Greece, Malta, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Cyprus, San Marino and Japan to Finland will be limited to essential trips starting August 24, with people returning from those countries required to self-quarantine for two weeks, Minister of Interior Maria Ohisalo said.

Prior to Wednesday’s announcement, Finland had already restricted travelling to and from most other countries around the globe.

In June, Finland’s government set a maximum of eight to 10 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over two weeks for countries to be considered safe destinations.

Gradually, it has been removing countries from its list of safe destinations as a second wave of infections has crept from one country to another.

“Our strong message is that travelling to risky countries should be avoided. Returning to Finland from them will lead to quarantine and trouble,” Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka told reporters.

Finland’s own 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants stood at 5.2 on Tuesday, among the lowest rates in Europe, according to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

But the number of cases has been on the rise in recent weeks, with health authorities counting a total of 7,776 cases and 334 deaths in Finland and a rise of 24 new cases and one death on Tuesday.

Harakka said 43 cases had been detected on travellers arriving on three different Wizz Air WIZZ.L flights from Skopje in North Macedonia to Turku in Finland recently and authorities were looking into ways of cancelling the connection.

Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Lincoln Feast.

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