Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu said 61 Estonian citizens or permanent residents are awaiting help from the government to return to Estonia.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, he said: "The peak of the consular crisis is behind us: the nearly 3,000 people who contacted us have returned home over the past weeks. This means that almost all permanent residents of Estonia who were abroad and wanted to return home have done so by now. According to our information, there are still 61 people in need of transport. The Foreign Ministry and our foreign representations continue to communicate with them individually."
Reinsalu advised people, and especially Estonians belonging to risk groups, to consider the risks involved in traveling now - both the risk of infection and logistical problems - and to think whether they need to start coming to Estonia at all.
"It must be taken into account that international transport connections will be interrupted for at least the next month and a half," Reinsalu said.
At the same time, the foreign minister emphasized that Estonian citizens always have open state borders both for entering and leaving. "It is only worth considering that many other countries, like Estonia, also restrict foreigners from entering their countries," he added.
The largest groups of Estonians in need of transport are in New Zealand, where ten Estonians are waiting for help, the are nine in Spain and four Estonians each in Georgia, Argentina, South Africa and Azerbaijan. "We have also tried to concentrate people in terms of evacuation possibilities," the minister said.
Reinsalu said that in an acute consular crisis, the ministry offers people evacuation flights organized by other European Union countries.
The foreign minister thanked other countries for their co-operation in assisting Estonian citizens trapped abroad at the video conference of European Union foreign ministers held on Friday.
"The co-operation of the European Union member states in providing consular assistance has been significant - many Estonians who were traveling to more distant destinations and from which it was practically impossible to return due to movement restrictions and canceled flights have returned home thanks to shared special flights," Reinsalu said.
The minister also said he had asked EU High Representative Josep Borrell to continue his efforts to persuade third-country governments to keep their airspace open for as long as possible so that people still trapped could return to Europe.
Tiina Kallasmaa, Director of the Consular Assistance Division, said the foreign ministry would help people who are in need of assistance abroad, including those who need help due to the coronavirus — for example, if the situation changes suddenly in their current location.
"Our 24-hour helpline +372 5301 9999 continues to operate and naturally you can also contact our embassies. You should also continue to be in touch with travel agencies and transport companies," Kallasmaa said.
Editor: Helen Wright