Request for opinions: Amendments to Communicable Diseases Act aim to curb spread of COVID-19 in cross-border traffic
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health requests opinions on the draft government proposal for temporarily amending the Communicable Diseases Act to curb the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic in cross-border traffic. The aim of the proposal is to focus measures, based on a risk assessment, on travellers arriving in Finland at airports, ports and land borders.
Comments can be submitted between 10 and 23 November 2020. Following the consultation round, the Government intends to submit its proposal to Parliament on 3 December 2020.
It is proposed that three new temporary sections be added to the Communicable Diseases Act — sections 60a, 60b and 60c and a new subsection to section 60. The first one would lay down provisions on imposing quarantine on people arriving in Finland from high-risk countries on the grounds that they have been exposed or are justifiably suspected of having been exposed to COVID-19. Section 60b in turn would apply to exceptional situations where quarantine is not imposed, and section 60c would apply to the provision of executive assistance to the authority in charge of communicable diseases in the relevant municipality. The proposed new subsection of section 60 would state that section 60a lays down provisions on the duration of COVID-19 quarantine.
Person arriving in Finland could be placed in quarantine under certain conditions
The physician in charge of communicable diseases in the municipality or the joint municipal authority for the hospital district could decide to place a person under quarantine for a maximum of ten days, if this was necessary to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 disease. This could happen under certain conditions when a person arrives in Finland from a country or other geographically restricted area
- where the incidence of COVID-19 cases, the number of cases relative to the population, during the last 14 days is at least double compared to Finland,
- where the rate of infected people in the general population can be estimated to be at least one per 1,000 people, and
- if the person poses a significant risk of spreading the disease upon their arrival in Finland.
Provisions on high-risk countries and regions would be laid down by government decree. The decree would remain in force up to one month at a time. People arriving in Finland would not be placed under quarantine if they could present a reliable certificate by a physician stating that they have recovered from a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 or that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Furthermore, they could not be placed under quarantine if their stay in Finland lasted for a maximum of three days, they presented a reliable certificate of a negative COVID-19 test taken up to 48 hours prior to their journey or if they were willing to take a COVID-19 test immediately upon their arrival in the country and the test result was negative.
Similarly, the quarantine would not be imposed if their stay in Finland lasted for 4–6 days and they could present a reliable certificate of a negative COVID-19 test taken up to 48 hours prior to their journey and they were willing to take a second COVID-19 test immediately upon their arrival in the country.
Quarantine would not apply to regular border crossings between border communities, for example
Temporary section 60b of the Communicable Diseases Act would lay down provisions on exceptions where people could not be placed under quarantine. Quarantine would not be imposed on people travelling regularly between border communities for the purposes of work, whether as an employee, an entrepreneur or a self-employed person, or studies or for securing their income. The exceptions would thus apply to land border crossings between Finland and Sweden and between Finland and Norway and to travel by air or sea between Finland and Sweden and between Finland and Estonia.
The quarantine requirement would not apply to diplomats; drivers operating in passenger and freight transport in the logistics and transport sector; on-duty crew members of vessels, aircraft and trains and their change crew; and persons travelling by air via Finland, provided that they do not leave the airport. Similarly, quarantine would not be imposed on people travelling for compelling personal reasons, for example people travelling to meet their underage children. In exceptional cases, travellers must be able to provide, on request, the authority in charge of preventing communicable diseases in the municipality or the joint municipal authority for the hospital district with the necessary information.
Police, Customs, Border Guard and Defence Forces could provide executive assistance to municipal authorities
Temporary section 60c of the Communicable Diseases Act would lay down provisions on the right of the Police, Customs, the Border Guard and the Defence Forces to provide, on request, executive assistance to the authority in charge of communicable diseases in the municipality or the joint municipal authority for the hospital district in connection with measures related to the COVID-19 crisis. The provision of executive assistance could not, however, endanger the performance of their other important statutory duties.
The authorities providing executive assistance would have the right to inspect the certificates presented by travellers which state that they got a negative result from a COVID-19 test, they have recovered from COVID-19 or they have been vaccinated against it. Such certificates would be required under section 60a of the Act. In addition, they would have the right to inspect the information required in exceptional cases under section 60b.
The authorities providing executive assistance could also stop vehicles, direct traffic and prevent people from leaving until a decision on the quarantine has been made. The person performing the inspection would be bound by the obligation not to disclose any information obtained during the inspection.
Liisa Katajamäki, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 2951 63329, [email protected]
Jari Keinänen, Director, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. +358 2951 63311, [email protected]
Outi Leinonen, Senior Officer, Border Guard, tel. [email protected], (border control, executive assistance)
Mika Salminen, Director, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, tel. +358 2952 48454, [email protected], (development of the global COVID-19 pandemic)