Speaking at a video press conference on Friday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) and Tiina Kallasmaa, director of the Consular Assistance Division of the Foreign Ministry, provided an overview of efforts to help Estonians return home, noting that nearly all Estonians wishing to return from abroad have already safely arrived.
"The peak of the consular crisis is behind us: the nearly 3,000 people who contacted us have returned home over the past weeks," Reinsalu said according to a ministry press release. "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 are continuing to communicate with them individually."
According to Reinsalu, the country is entering a period in which returning to Estonia is very complicated due to suspended transport links and quarantine rules, and it is likely to become even more difficult.
"We do not know how long this will last; however, we should allow for a significant reduction in travel options until at least mid-May or longer," he warned.
The foreign minister stressed that Estonia's borders would remain open to Estonian citizens and permanent residents. However, in light of travel options that have become increasingly scarce and the spread of the coronavirus, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is asking everyone to seriously consider whether traveling is essential, particularly among groups more at risk of the virus.
Should anyone choose to remain abroad, they must follow the instructions of local authorities and ensure that they do not breach the terms of their visa or any other conditions for being in the country where they are located during the ongoing emergency.
Kallasmaa emphasized that the Foreign Ministry would continue to help people 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, remains operational, and naturally you can also contact our embassies," Kallasmaa said. "You should also remain in touch with travel agencies and transport companies."
Editor: Aili Vahtla