Government approves testing as alternative to 14-day quarantine

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COVID-19 testing kits.
COVID-19 testing kits. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the government decided to allow rapid testing for individuals entering the country instead of the existing 14-day quarantine period. A test has to be taken when entering the country and a second test has to be given two weeks after.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) announced on social media on Tuesday that the government decided to approve an alternative to the existing 14-day quarantine requirement.

Reinsalu posted: "Starting September 1, it is possible to take a test, go to work, and with sufficient avoidance of contact, take a test a week later. This is a trustworthy alternative, which allows for unavoidable travel and also protects public health."

He told ERR on Tuesday that the results of the test will be ready in a few hours or days. If the results are negative, the person does not have to quarantine.

He also noted that both Germany and Austria are also using testing on borders and measures are developed, where unavoidable travel would not be made any more difficult.

However, Minister for Education Mailis Reps (Center) said on Tuesday, this amendment only applies for work.

More information about quarantining on arrival can be read on the Police and Border Guard Board's website.

While speaking about the start of the school year, she said: "Unfortunately, the contents of the amendments have been communicated in an unclear manner. The government approved an exception for work and essential activities, like going shopping for supplies.

"All other things, studying, partying, entertainment and just spending time outdoors are still forbidden. Taking a coronavirus test allows adults to proceed with their work.

"If you and your children come from a high-risk country, the children must remain home for 14 days and can not go to school or kindergarten."

The topic of how to prepare for a situation with direct flights to countries where the number of infections will be higher than 25 people per 100,000 inhabitants over a two week average is also being discussed.

Under the current rules, direct flights should stop when this threshold is crossed but this may gradually lead to the all flights being halted. Reinsalu has previously stated a change to the policy is necessary to sustain international movement and travel.

As new case rates are rising, changes to travel restrictions seem inevitable.

As of August 14, travelers from 23 countries must now spend 14-days in quarantine after arriving in Estonia. A country is added to the quarantine list if the reported rate of coronavirus is more than 16 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants over the preceding 14 days, or removed from the list if the reported number dips below that. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently recommending people avoid travel unless it is essential. Discussions regarding travel are also being discussed with the governments of Latvia and Lithuania.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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