Why Finland Is Holding Off Banning Flights From North Macedonia

Finnish Transport and Communications Agency (Traficom) is currently in the process of preparing a decision on the possible suspension of flights arriving from the capital of North Macedonia, Skopje. Let’s take a look at the reasons behind this.

Wizz Air Airbus A320
Wizz Air operates flights between Finland and North Macedonia, and these flights have proven troublesome for Finland. Photo: Getty Images

Finland might ban flights from Skopje

This morning, the Government of Finland issued a press release in the name of three Finnish ministries: The Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, and Ministry of the Interior. The press release informs of tightened travel restrictions for arrivals from Iceland, Greece, Malta, Germany, Norway and Denmark. This follows the previous similar announcement last week.

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The press release also notes that the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency (Traficom) is in the process of preparing a decision on the possible suspension of flights arriving from the capital of North Macedonia, Skopje. This ban, if imposed, would only impact a single route: Wizz Air’s flights between Turku and Skopje.

Wizz Air operates this route twice weekly only. There is no other airline operating any direct connections between any Finnish airport to either of North Macedonia’s two airports. So why is Finland considering banning this route?

Wizz Air, Russia, London Luton
Wizz Air is the only airline operating flights between North Macedonia and Finland. Photo: Getty Images

Why the possible ban?

The ban comes just days after news emerged that another set of arrivals into Finland from North Macedonia have tested positive for coronavirus. As a result, Finland implemented a new policy: All passengers arriving to Turku on Wizz Air’s flights from Skopje are to be tested at the airport. Following the news this morning, it seems that Finland is also considering an outright ban.

The issue started on Saturday 8th August, when Wizz Air flight W6 7769 arrived in Turku from Skopje, with 26 passengers who later tested positive for COVID-19. There is no evidence that there has been any transmission within the aircraft on that flight. Still, Finnish authorities have been keeping an eye on the arrivals from Skopje ever since.

And not without reason. The next flight, on Tuesday 11th August, carried a further five passengers infected with COVID-19. Then there were another twelve on the subsequent flight, on Saturday 15th August.

Wizz Air
Wizz Air flies to as many destinations out of Turku year-round as all the other airlines combined. Photo: Getty Images

Most infected passengers are not from North Macedonia

What makes this an interesting case is that most passengers registered to have been infected with COVID-19, and who arrived into Finland on this flight, are not actually from North Macedonia. Skopje Airport, where Wizz Air boasts a multi-aircraft base, is located in the near vicinity of Kosovo and Serbia.

Consequently, many passengers using Wizz Air’s low-fare services departing Skopje are foreign. Turku is one such destination. In fact, the majority of the passengers who tested positive for COVID-19 on the flights from Skopje to Turku are Kosovo passport holders.

That is why Finland is considering imposing a ban on the flight arriving in from Skopje, and not a ban on North Macedonian citizens entering Finland.

What do you think of targeted flight bans and travel restrictions as a way of protecting countries from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic? Let us know what you think of this story in the comments below.
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