Government may keep direct flights to some COVID-19 high-risk nations open

Plane landing at Tallinn Airport. Photo is illustrative.
Plane landing at Tallinn Airport. Photo is illustrative. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The cabinet is meeting on Thursday to review direct flight bans with European countries in the wake of rising coronavirus rates. The government is likely to raise the benchmark of COVID-19 infections beyond which bans are put in place, and some key destinations are likely to remain open regardless of the present coronavirus rate, economics affairs minister Taavi Aas (Center) has said.

While the majority of European countries would be subject to direct flight bans in Estonia, by the criteria established during the peak of the pandemic in spring, the cabinet may well make concessions on this following its meeting, Aas said while speaking on ERR radio show "Vikerhommik" Thursday morning. 

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has set the limit for allowing direct flights at 25 new infections per 100,000 people over a 14-day period. No direct flight links can travel between Estonia and a country with a rate higher this figure under the current rules.  

But Aas, and other members of the government have, have said it is important to maintain travel connections with other European countries.

As of Monday, there are only nine direct flights between Estonia and other European cities.

Ultimately, Aas said, the government does not want a situation where direct flights between Estonia and the rest of Europe are off the table, as they largely had been in spring, with some key destinations likely to remain in place come what may. 

"The government is discussing this issue, and it is likely that the decision will be such that certain destinations in Europe will remain open, regardless of the coronavirus rates there." 

Aas would not be drawn on which specific countries these might be, though said that countries with major air transit hubs and which were major destinations when flying from Estonia were in focus. 

Aas also said that the change, should it come, was not a call to action to go off and spend a long weekend city break in those countries. 

Finland of key importance

Aas also highlighted the importance of freedom of movement between Finland and Estonia.

"Finland's opening up is extremely important to us, both for those working in Finland and for the already struggling tourism sector," he said. 

Finland has recently set its self-quarantine requirement at eight COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, half that of Estonia and many other European countries. As of Thursday, Estonia's infection rate is 11.29 per 100,000 and ministers in both countries are trying to avoid imposing a 14-day quarantine on Estonian's entering Finland.

On Wednesday, it was announced that Estonia was on the "green" (i.e. low) list with regard to its coronavirus risk but foreign ministers from both countries will meet at the weekend to discuss ongoing issues.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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