Government urges travel companies to bring people back to Estonia

Returning to Estonia may soon be very difficult.
Returning to Estonia may soon be very difficult. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications (MKM) sent a letter to tour service operators on Saturday urging them to bring all customers abroad back to Estonia by Wednesday morning at the latest as the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread across Europe.

The ministry is asking travel companies to act quickly and be sympathetic.

Taavi Aas, Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure: "In a situation where the spread of coronavirus is increasing and countries are closing their borders, it makes sense to bring our people home."

He added: "The possibility that returning will be very difficult or even impossible increases with each passing hour."

Travelers should be aware the situation is changing rapidly and that when trying to enter some countries they may not be allowed enter or be quarantined. 

"Passenger safety and a safe return home is a priority for us, and we ask all travel companies to act quickly," Aas said.

The Foreign Ministry's also issued recommendations not to travel abroad or to invite foreign people to visit Estonia in the coming months. 

After returning from a trip, if it was to or passing through a risk area, both Estonian residents and foreign nationals must be isolated for two weeks. 

Where a package traveler is "trapped" abroad, under the law of obligations, the tour operator is obliged to provide immediate assistance to a traveler in difficulty, in particular, to provide information on health services, local authorities and consular assistance, as well as assistance with travel and alternative travel options. 

Pursuant to the Law of Obligations Act, if, due to unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances, it is not possible to arrange the return journey of the passenger as agreed in the package travel contract, the tour operator shall bear the cost of the necessary accommodation for up to three nights per passenger.

The government has defined risk areas as China, South Korea, Singapore, Iran, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Egypt. This list is subject to change.  

On Thursday the government declared an emergency situation to deal with the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. As of March 14, a total of 115 people have been diagnosed with the virus in Estonia. On Saturday Latvia said they were closing their borders to travelers. Lithuania, Denmark, Norway and Poland have also closed their borders to travelers.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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