Passenger on Baltic cruise confirmed with COVID-19, hundreds possibly exposed: Finnish authority

Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) said on Monday that a passenger traveling on a cruise ferry between the Finnish capital Helsinki and the Estonian capital Tallinn had been confirmed with COVID-19.

Following this, Finnish health authorities urged about one thousand passengers on the same ferry to watch their health, as they might be exposed to the virus.

According to THL, the infected passenger traveled by the Baltic Ferry “Silja Europa” from Helsinki to Tallinn on June 30 and returned by the same ferry the following day. There were some 1,000 passengers on board. The infected person had moved around widely in the public areas of the ship, and it is difficult to trace and contact all.

Timo Lukkarinen, the chief medical director of the City of Helsinki told Finnish national broadcaster Yle that two families who had been in close contact with the infected person on the ferry have been quarantined.

The Baltic ferries like Silja Europa serve both work commuting and leisure purposes. Even though the actual crossing can be done in four hours, the ships often circle in the sea to make an overnight cruise.

Since June, ferry services to neighboring Estonia have been possible as the COVID-19 epidemic situation had been steady in Finland and the border restrictions had thus been eased.

Marika Nojd, the media director of the shipping line Tallink Silja told newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that since the opening of the services in June they have only taken one-third of the ships’ capacity on board out of safety consideration. “Silja Europa can carry 3,000 guests, but now it has only a thousand,” she said.

According to THL, as of Monday afternoon, Finland has confirmed a total of 7,257 infections with COVID-19, of which the number of new confirmed cases was 15. The death toll reached 329, with no death reported in the past 24 hours. About 6,700 people were estimated to have recovered, accounting for 90 percent of the reported cases.