HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland's government said on Thursday it will lift coronavirus-related restrictions on leisure travelling to and from neighbouring Baltic and Nordic countries, excluding Sweden.
"Unfortunately, the epidemic situation in Sweden does not enable giving up the restrictions yet," Minister of Interior Maria Ohisalo told reporters.
Travel restrictions will be lifted on June 15 for tourists to and from Norway, Denmark, Iceland as well as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, where the infection rate has fallen to similar levels to Finland's, Ohisalo said.
Restrictions will continue to be imposed on Finland's eastern land border with Russia and on the western border with Sweden, the government said.
"Sweden is a very important border neighbour and partner country for Finland... For Sweden's part, the restrictions will be lifted as soon as the epidemic situation permits," Ohisalo said.
Transit traffic via Helsinki airport will be allowed, which will enable national carrier Finnair to restart connecting flights from Asia to Europe, the government said.
Sweden has adopted fewer restrictive measures to contain the disease than its neighbours and by June 10, Sweden's COVID-19 deaths were 4,717 - four times the number in the other Nordic countries combined, with 593 in Denmark, 324 in Finland, 239 in Norway and 10 in Iceland.
"We hope for reciprocity," in lifting the restrictions, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said, adding Norway and Denmark had promised to consider adding Finland to their travel bubble.
The epidemic has slowed in Finland, with the total number of cases at 7,040 on Wednesday and 28 patients hospitalised, of which only 4 are in intensive care, health officials said.
Public gatherings, such as sport events, of more than 500 people will be allowed if social distancing rules can be respected from the beginning of July, the government added.
(Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Catherine Evans and Barbara Lewis)