Speaking on the "Otse Postimehest" ("Live from Postimees") webcast of the daily Postimees on Wednesday, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu gave hope that the easing of restrictions regarding foreign tourism could come as early as June.
According to the minister, one possibility would be to create an opportunity to test for coronavirus at airports and, in the long run, to abolish the quarantine requirement based on mutual trust.
Reinsalu said that the most acute issue in terms of the Estonian economy is the pace at which it is possible to ease restrictions on entry into Estonia. "At present, there is a general restriction on entry to Estonia for all third-country nationals, except for commuters from Finland and citizens of the Baltic states. There are additional exceptions, but the group of exceptions is small and for exceptional circumstances," the minister added.
He added that the next phase will be discussed by the government on Thursday. "The starting point offered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the need to nevertheless maintain security measures in cooperation with the Baltic states in order to allow other citizens from the Schengen area to enter Estonia. The general principle of quarantine and, in addition, [there could be - ed.] an alternative," Reinsalu said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working on the possibility of shortening or, in the future, altogether abolishing the quarantine requirement on the basis of mutual trust. "We are currently working on an alternative, so that if a person can produce evidence of a negative COVID-19 virus test or is tested at an Estonian airport, for example, it would be possible to shorten the quarantine time," Reinsalu said.
According to the foreign minister, Austria, Denmark and Iceland are also considering this model. "This, in itself, is a practical method for the movement of people. I think that the possibility of testing to release Estonian citizens from quarantine, if they arrive from Germany, for example, would give objective confidence and certainty that the person is not infected," he said.
"Another issue that we are discussing in cooperation with the Baltic states is whether we can apply the reciprocal waiver of quarantine requirements to countries with a low virus spread level, as we do," he said. "This is the case, for example, in Slovenia, where the virus infection rate is several times lower than in Estonia."
According to Reinsalu, the application of this solution to citizens of other countries arriving from the Schengen area could start already in June. "All people who come to Estonia [from the Schengen area - ed.] either get tested for COVID-19 or remain in quarantine. This could be the first stage," he said.
"The next stage would be launched when there is trust established with countries with low virus spread and it is possible to waive mutual quarantine requirements," he said.
Editor: Anders Nõmm