Confusion remains on foreign students' isolation requirements

Tallinn University.
Tallinn University. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Universities in Estonia say they are concerned about how to meet the government's requirement to take joint responsibility for both the two week quarantining period for foreign students arriving in Estonia and the requirement for taking two primary COVID-19 tests within days, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Sunday night.

The situation is clearer but there are no good solutions found, the universities say, a week before the start of the new academic year.

While Estonian university students may be enjoying their last summer days, their international counterparts starting this semester would need to be in isolation in Estonia already, given that the requirement is for 14 days.

However, since there are few free dorm places available, foreign students are having to try to find temporary housing for their mandatory quarantine.

Universities are in the meantime trying to stay in contact with their students, AK reported.

Hendrik Voll, Rector for Studies at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), said that, unfortunately, universities do not have the final true picture of the situation yet.

"However, the situation is clearer than it was a week ago. It seems that about 10 percent of students due to arrive are not answering us as to when are they coming. But generally, we have a picture. About a third will live in a student village, or dorms, and the rest in rental apartments or with the local community," he said.

"We have informed the students and asked when are they coming, and we have the information about most of them, but the actual responsibility to meet the isolation requirement is ultimately theirs," Tallinn University's Vice-Rector for Studies, Priit Reiska, said.

In case of not meeting with the conditions, it is possible to implement a fine on a student, or even to deport him or her or withdraw their residence permit.

PPA will inspect student accommodation for quarantine adherence

The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) says it is to make inspections of student accommodation establishments. The incoming student must take two coronavirus tests and any positive result will be reported to the university. Universities also have the right to request confirmation of a negative test result. However, each student cannot be checked individually, AK reported.

Irina Donchenko, adviser on epidemiological preparedness at the Health Board, says the board does not have a great opportunity to exercise control, adding it is hoped that the educational institutions themselves will step up to the plate.

"They should monitor, watch, talk to their students constantly about how important this is and remind them that as long as we do not have an effective vaccine or medication, we must cope with the disease ourselves," Donchenko said.

Mayank Patel, a member of the ESN student association, said students have been well received at Tallinn University. "At least I can say here about Tallinn University that the staff, and also the people in your city, have been very supportive. They actually offer all the guidance and all the possible ways students can come here and study" he said.

The university year starts in a little more than a week, and an introductory "freshers'" week for international students often takes place ahead of that.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Andrew Whyte

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