Coronavirus: New Zealander fears she will be stranded in Finland amid travel uncertainty

A Kiwi woman fears she will be stranded in Finland amid the COVID-19 pandemic as border restrictions and flight cancellations narrow a "tiny window" for her to return to New Zealand.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade strongly urged all overseas New Zealanders to return home while "commercial options remain available".

It's not that simple for Merja Myllylahti, who travelled to Finland to bury her father.

"I have limited time. If anything goes wrong... I might be stuck," she told The AM Show on Thursday morning (NZ time). 

"It is a real battle... I've booked two separate tickets from Helsinki to get back to New Zealand, one is via Doha, Qatar and one is via Tokyo. I'm just waiting to see what happens as airlines are cancelling flights all the time. 

"There is no certainty for me... I have a short two-day window to get to New Zealand before Air New Zealand cancels its flights from Tokyo. It's all touch and go."

She says people are fearful of the government restricting internal movement, a preventative measure Myllylahti says would inevitably leave her trapped. 

Although access to travel is both a luxury and principle of living within the border-free Schengen Area, a number of its 26 member states - including Finland - are beginning to impose full or partial border shutdowns. 

According to the Helsinki Times, Finland is now preparing to close its borders to all non-essential travel as of 12am on Thursday (local time) in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"My biggest fear is to be stranded in the middle of a route, in Doha or Tokyo," Myllylahti admitted.

"I wouldn't choose to travel at this time but I have to. I came here to bury my dad so I had a legitimate reason... now I desperately want to get home."

Myllylahti claims she contacted the New Zealand Consul in Helsinki, who directed her to an embassy. 

"They basically said 'good luck with organising [your] flights'... you're pretty much on your own'," she said.

"I'm not expecting the Government to come and rescue one person in Finland, but it would be helpful to have information such as what routes [are available]... Europe is closed for me, the USA is closed, we only have a tiny window where we might get through.

"Now we are called back home and believe me, I really want to come home - but I'm not sure if it's possible."

On Wednesday (NZ time), European Union leaders agreed to close the EU's external borders for 30 days, banning non-EU nationals from entering amid the pandemic. 

Finland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that foreign travellers in Finland will be permitted to return to their home country.

Finland currently has more than 300 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Eight more cases were announced in New Zealand on Wednesday, bringing the total to 20.