null Ministry of Transport and Communications prepares legislative amendments to ensure health security in transport services

Ministry of Transport and Communications prepares legislative amendments to ensure health security in transport services

Press release 27.08.2020 15.54 fi sv en

A tram and a ship in Helsinki (Photo: Shutterstock)

The Ministry of Transport and Communications is preparing a legislative package to ensure health security in maritime transport, aviation and passenger transport, including terminals and stations. A proposal is also under preparation to amend the Act on Communicable Diseases in terms of the provisions concerning the transport sector.

“Shortcomings in legislation are constantly being addressed. We are currently making preparations to increase the powers of the transport authorities to ensure health security in transport services,” says Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka.

The legislative drafting at the Ministry in order to take health security into account in transport services is part of the Government’s legislative measures, which started in June 2020, to make the necessary amendments to the powers of the authorities to fight the second wave of COVID-19 infections and other serious disturbances.

The extensive preparatory work will focus on amendments to the following acts: the Ship Transport Services Act, Ship Register Act, Maritime Safety Act, Aviation Act, Pilotage Act, Water Traffic Act and the Act on Transport Services.

A large number of the proposed amendments would increase the powers of the Transport and Communications Agency Traficom to make decisions or issue orders if the situation so requires.

Stakeholders will be consulted during the drafting process. The proposals will be subject to an impact assessment.

Flight connections may be restricted if necessary

Earlier in August, the Government was concerned about the several COVID-19 infections detected on flights from Skopje, North Macedonia, to Turku, Finland. A theme raised for discussion was the possible need to suspend flights from Skopje to Turku, so preventing the spread of infections. 

On the basis of the statement of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, the competent authority, Transport and Communications Agency Traficom, has decided to suspend flights between Skopje and Turku for two weeks from 28 August to 10 September 2020. The decision does not apply to other flight connections. Traficom informed about the decision on 27 August 2020.

Minister Harakka welcomes Traficom’s decision.

“Now we have a new tool for addressing situations posing a sudden threat. I am pleased that we can now temporarily suspend the flight routes that are most risky. We want to prevent the spread of infections in Finland, but also to protect passengers from being exposed during the flight,” says Minister Harakka.

“Disconnecting the flight connection will discourage tourism to dangerous countries. A group examining the health security at crossing points, led by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, is currently finding out ways to identify the country of departure of stopover passengers at the borders,” says Minister Harakka.

During the ongoing drafting work, it will be examined whether Traficom could be given permanent powers in certain limited cases to restrict or prohibit the operation of a certain flight route, for example.

This amendment would implement the restrictions allowed by the EU Air Services Regulation. The Regulation defines the conditions under which an airline’s right to operate an air service (traffic right) can be restricted for a short time on a specific route, for example. The amendments would be made to the Act on Transport Services.

Amendments to the Communicable Diseases Act in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health

Under the current legislation, powers in ensuring the health security in public transport services lies with the health authorities as laid down in the Communicable Diseases Act. It is the responsibility of the transport authorities to ensure traffic safety.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the powers of the transport authorities under current legislation are not sufficient to ensure the passengers’ health security.

A proposal is also under preparation at the Ministry of Transport and Communications to amend the Act on Communicable Diseases in terms of the provisions concerning the transport sector. The temporary amendments would concern the extended powers of Traficom and the obligations imposed on the transport service provider.

The Communicable Diseases Act falls within the administrative sector of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Legislative amendments concerning the transport sector will be made in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

What are the next steps?

The Ministry of Transport and Communications will prepare a government proposal to amend legislation in its administrative branch and, in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, prepare a government proposal to amend the Communicable Diseases Act. The proposals will be sent out for comments and the preparations will continue after the consultation round. The Government will submit the proposals for discussion in Parliament.

The aim is that they will enter into force on 1 January 2021.

Inquiries:

Juhapekka Ristola, Director-General, tel. +358 295 342 348, Twitter @JpRistola

Silja Ruokola, Senior Government Adviser, tel. +358 295 342 367, Twitter @SRuokola