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Many tourists stranded in Lapland due to coronavirus crisis
Published : 20 Mar 2020, 12:30
Finland closed its borders on Thursday to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, leaving thousands of tourists stranded in the Lapland tourist areas in the north, reported news agency Xinhua quoting the national broadcaster Yle.
"We have been fully occupied with briefing visitors about possibilities to fly out," Sanna Kärkkäinen, managing director of the promotion agency Visit Rovaniemi, told Yle.
Rovaniemi airport remains open, but there are no longer direct international services from Lapland. Helsinki-Vantaa, Mariehamn and Turku airports are open for international freight and returning Finnish nationals only. The number of flights has been greatly reduced.
"Many foreign visitors find it difficult to believe what the international transport situation is now," said Kärkkäinen.
However, she told Yle that many visitors appear to be reluctant to leave. "Some have said they would rather remain now in Finland as they believe this country would be 'safe'," she added.
Kärkkäinen recalled that a group of French tourists arrived on Tuesday and claimed that they were unaware of the coronavirus crisis. In recent days, Karkkainen has also advised visitors from Singapore, Australia, Germany and Italy about the COVID-19 situation.
The Lapland area regional authority has confirmed to Yle that restaurants can continue their services but organized events must be canceled. The resorts in Lapland also remain open to visitors. The Finnish Ski Area Association has advised customers "to maintain good hand hygiene" and to "stay at least one meter apart from each other." The Finnish ski industry still expects a rush for the mid-April Easter holiday.
To date, Finland has confirmed approximately 400 coronavirus cases. The number of actual infections is probably higher, as several of those infected experience mild symptoms, according to the National Institute for Health and Welfare.
Minister of Finance Katri Kulmuni has stated earlier that the COVID-19 pandemic has mainly affected her country's tourist industry and the supply of imported goods.