Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said in an interview on ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Tuesday evening that rapid testing conducted for Estonian citizens entering the country will be free.
On Tuesday, August 18, the government decided to allow rapid testing for individuals entering the country instead of the existing 14-day quarantine period, starting September 1. A test has to be taken when entering the country and a second test has to be given two weeks after.
More information about quarantining on arrival can be read on the Police and Border Guard Board's website.
So how will this testing look?
This is why we have set a transition period, so preparations would be done by September 1. The principle will be that since we have to live with this virus, it is like a marathon. Therefore, we must have the opportunity to go through our normal way of life while taking into account the safety measures. Before all, it is conducted for people, who need to travel for essential business, if we can replace the two-week quarantine with testing, we should.
And the model - with the details still being established by experts from the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Health Board (Terviseamet) - will allow people coming from foreign countries to remain in self-isolation for two weeks, if they prefer to do so. If they wish to shorten it, it is possible to take a test. Until the results of the test are clear, they must remain in quarantine.
We are certainly interested in the results being arranged as soon as possible. And then they can work for the next seven days is they work in Estonia. But they should avoid excessive contacts and then take a test a week later. In the case of both tests coming back negative, that confirms their security.
The first test could be done right there in the airport?
Yes, we have actually given directives that starting September, volluntary testing capabilities would be expanded upon in international travel establishments - airports, harbors.
Do we have such capabilities and who is paying for testing?
The current government decision is that testing for Estonians will be covered.
Canceling direct flights to so-called "high-risk" countries was not decided on on Tuesday. If testing is conducted, what is the point of canceling direct flights?
Well, with this policy overall that we have built - with agreements with the other Baltic states - is the principle that measures should be used to help alleviate the spread of the virus across international borders and in Estonia. We can always separately discuss which measure is most rational, which one is not.
In the first phase, we have chosen measures. I think it is reasonable to revise the logic of international air travel in a way that regardless of the spread - as it has increased in Europe - our lifelines and main corridors must remain.
What would those be?
In government today, I pointed out flights to Amsterdam, Warsaw, Copenhagen, it also affects Germany. The spread of the virus could theoretically also mean that Germany falls under the limit (25 cases per 100,000 people over last 14 days - ed.) in the near future.
In conclusion, we have agreed that if return to this topic in August, and in parallel, when this system is implemented, we will look at possible solutions in government for wider testing, to change the system.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste