Lapland plans Covid tests for tourists

This week the government eased coronavirus-related restrictions on travel into the country starting 19 September. Travellers from countries exceeding 25 coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants will be required to take a coronavirus test within three days of arriving in Finland.

The government has said it hopes the relaxation of restrictions will support businesses and revive the tourism sector.

Markku Broas,chief physician of infectious diseases at Lapland Hospital District, pointed to some of the logistical challenges involving the testing of travellers.

“It would be really difficult to start collecting samples from different hotels and cabins, some very far away–it would demand a lot of staff. The most efficient model would be for people to arrive at a single testing centre,” he explained.

Health officials in the far north have pinned hopes on a coronavirus breathalyser. But this novel testing method has yet to fulfill required safety standards.

“If approved by officials, breathalysers would expedite testing and radically change our testing strategy,” Broas said.

Group tests

This Christmas season Lapland expects charter planes to bring some 50,000 visitors to the region, provided tour operators are able to avoid further cancellations linked to the pandemic.

Countries are meanwhile in a race to secure testing capacity.

“Acquiring devices and reagents is really difficult right now. These two months that we have left before the season starts are the absolute minimum for getting everything ready,” Broas explained.

He said a plan was yet in place for testing independent travellers flying up north, as these people would be more difficult to identify than those arriving in tour groups. Tourists making their way to Lapland on their own typically come through Helsinki, but Broas said it was still unclear how independent travellers would register or get tested for the virus.

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