Estonia restricting flights based on Baltic agreement

Passenger jet over Tallinn Airport.
Passenger jet over Tallinn Airport. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Estonia is currently not allowing airlines to fly to countries where there have been more than 25 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents in the past two weeks; this restriction is based on the mutual travel bubble established by the Baltic countries this month.

"The government made a decision at its May 14 cabinet meeting according to which the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs, was granted the right to make decisions regarding permitting air traffic in accordance with the public health situation and the spread of the coronavirus in Estonia and other countries," said Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Center).

According to Aas, based on their own analyses, the Health Board of Estonia and its equivalent agencies in Latvia and Lithuania offered up a corresponding measure, and the Baltic health ministers agreed that air travel could be restored to countries where no more than 25 people per 100,000 residents have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in the past 14 days.

"We have introduced our Baltic experience in opening our borders to our EU colleagues and informed the European Commission," he added.

Nonetheless, this indicator has not yet officially been added to the Baltics' agreement; only a video recording and minutes exist of the meeting where the Baltics' health ministers reached this agreement. Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) said that the plan is to get this indicator in writing by the end of the month, together with possible relaxation measures for quarantine restrictions on other countries, such as Poland or Finland.

At the same time, reaching these decisions regarding the relaxation of quarantine measures will take time, as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania each have to reach their own conclusions regarding to what extent and in connection with whom quarantines can be relaxed, Kiik continued. Nonetheless, the maximum of 25 cases per 100,000 residents applies to all three Baltic countries, and according to Kiik, this is to ensure that people aren't spurred to commute and that they would be stimulated to visit a third country via another Baltic state.

According to the social affairs minister, at the time this agreement was reached, the median figure in Europe was approximately 50 new cases per 100,000 residents in a two-week period, and, conservatively, the limit was set at half of that. Estonia's own highest rate of infection was 57 new cases per 100,000 residents in a two-week period.

According to Aas, Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) has also been involved in the agreement and implementation of this restriction, as his role was to explain this restriction to foreign countries via diplomatic channels.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications is regularly reviewing the reopening of air routes based on the agreed-upon restriction. If a country has seen fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past two weeks, airlines will be permitted to relaunch routes between Estonia and that country.

As of May 20, for example, no flights should be permitted between Estonia, Belarus, Russia, the U.S., the U.K., Sweden, Ireland, Belgium, Portugal or Turkey.

Flights should fundamentally be permitted, however, between the Baltic states and Spain, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Finland, Romania, Malta, France, Ukraine, Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Cyprus, Croatia, Greece, Slovakia, Slovenia and Iceland.

Latvia has informed the European Commission and other EU member states that it is extending its flight restrictions to all countries except the Baltic states until June 9; Lithuania is extending its own through May 31.

The health ministers of the Baltic countries are reviewing these restrictions on a weekly basis; their next planned meeting is scheduled for May 25.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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