Aas: Some travel restrictions may stay in place until autumn ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

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

Minister of Economic Affairs Taavi Aas has said some flight restrictions will remain in force after the end of August in order to keep the level of coronavirus infections as low as possible. However, the state must make it possible to keep some direct air routes to important destinations.

On Tuesday, the government decided to replace the requirement for two weeks self-isolation with coronavirus tests on arrival and a follow-up test a week later for travelers from countries with a high infection rate. The new rule will take effect on September 1.

Previously, the quarantine period was based on a country having less than 17 infections per 100,000 inhabitants on a 14 day average, and 25 per 100,000 for direct flights to be established to and from Estonia.

However, as infection rates rise in European countries, more and more connections are being canceled and the government does not want to cut Estonia off.

On August 27, the government will discuss the issue again and decide how to proceed in the coming months.

"This is mainly due to the recent rise in infection rates in Europe and the risk that all major connecting airports will be in countries where flight restrictions will apply," Aas (Center) told ERR on Wednesday.

Travel restrictions help keep the risk of infection low

However, according to Aas, some restrictions on aviation will remain in force due to the rising infection rate across Europe. He said it is important to keep connections with Finland and the Baltic states.

This week, Air Baltic was forced to cancel direct flights from Tallinn to Denmark, France and Cyprus, where the infection rate rose above 25. But, at the same time, tickets from Tallinn with a Paris stop in Vilnius can be bought on the airline's website.

Aas said the restriction on the routes have been justified in order to minimize travel from Estonia and lower the risk of someone returning to Estonia who is sick. He said the government is aware they are ways to get around the current rules.

Currently, if a person transfers through a low infection country but they started their journey in a country with a higher infection rate they must still undergo a 14-day quarantine period on arrival to Estonia.

The procedures for the corona test to replace self-isolation are not yet clear

Ass said coronavirus tests are intended for business travelers, people coming to see family and tourists returning to Estonia to go to work after a negative test.

He said the rules set by employers may differ. "From the government's side, if the first test has been performed and a negative result has been obtained, the state will not require a quarantine period," Aas added.

Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) told ERR during the "Otse uudistemajast" broadcast that tests would be free for Estonians, but the procedures are still being set up. 

He said the measure should be used by business travelers rather than tourists.

Reinsalu said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommends that people do not travel internationally, except to countries where the infection rate is less than 16.

Minister of Education Maili Reps (Center) said on Tuesday that the tests would only allow people to go to work.

"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," she said.

"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."

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Editor: Helen Wright

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