Government planning to establish 'control measures' on national border ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Border point. Picture is illustrative.
Border point. Picture is illustrative. Source: (Sergei Stepanov)

No information has emerged about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) having spread further from the first confirmed virus carrier in Estonia; however, the government is planning to implement additional control measures on the national border, Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik said on Thursday.

Speaking at the government's weekly press conference, Kiik (Center) said it would not be possible to introduce full border controls to stop the virus spreading, as about ten million people move in and out of Estonia every year and it would be unrealistic to monitor such a mass. "There should probably be risk and case-based controls," he said.

On Thursday the government set up a task force consisting of secretary-generals or their deputies of various ministries, who have been tasked with coming up with measures for preventing the spread of the virus.

Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE) said at the press conference the government does currently not deem it necessary to close national borders; however, additional checks must be imposed on risk groups, such as people arriving from affected areas. 

"We have a sufficient number of long-range thermometers and they will definitely be put to use. Specialists in the newly created task force will also propose specific solutions," he said, adding that the government is likewise prepared to convene at short notice.

Reinsalu said additional border control measures will be established, and if the situation warrants it, the government will not hesitate to close the border completely. 

"We have also stopped issuing Estonian tourism visas to people in China," he said. "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also strongly advises against travelling to risk areas. People should assess risks realistically."

Kiik said the government supports the Health Board's recommendations for people arriving in Estonia from risk areas to remain at home for two weeks if possible.

Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab said local governments must also have an action plan for nursing homes, kindergartens and schools in case of an outbreak, and the government will be providing information in this connection.

However, Helme underscored that the novel coronavirus spreading to Estonia has not brought about an emergency.

"We don't have an emergency, crisis, pandemic or epidemic. What we have is a threat, and we are in the process of minimizing it," he said.

Helme added that no other situation has emerged in Estonia prompting an emergency, either. The minister also called upon the media to act responsibly and not create any panic.

Reinsalu said Estonian consular services also have the task of assisting people, if needed.

"What also needs to be taken into consideration is that additional travel restrictions may be imposed on several regions," he added.

Reinsalu said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can be reached by phone around the clock for information on the issue. 

"Altogether 105 citizens of Estonia have at present registered their stay in the risk area," he said. "According to the information we have, there are currently no Estonian nationals in the quarantine areas."

On Thursday morning tests revealed the first case of coronavirus in Estonia. 

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Editor: Helen Wright

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