Reform MEP: Direct flight cancellations 'nonsense'

MEP Urmas Paet (Reform).
MEP Urmas Paet (Reform). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Reform MEP Urmas Paet has hit out at recent direct flight cancellations. The direct flights were barred between Estonia and countries defined as coronavirus high-risk, a move which flies in the face of recommendations from the government's own coronavirus scientific council, Paet said.

Destinations off the table for direct flights include France, Belgium and Luxembourg, locations of the European Parliament and European Commission. 

"Congratulations. The current nonsense continues. The stance of the research council counts for nothing. The government and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications are still canceling direct flights. As a result,, no direct connections to Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels or Stockholm, for example," Paet wrote on his social media account.

The government has opted to extend using ceiling of 25 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents in the preceding 14 days through the autumn; beyond this figure, set by the economics affairs ministry, direct flight links cannot take place between Estonia and the country in question.

Paet added that there was no correlation between direct links and coronavirus rates.

"The result is, [connecting] transfers, meaning more contact and more time and money spent. Finland has never closed its routes, yet it has had one of the lowest infection rates. This is a vivid example that there is no link between the routes and the infection rate," he went on.

Head of the coronavirus scientific council (Valitsuse teadusnõukoda) Profesor Irja Lutsar recently argued that direct flights were in fact safer than connecting flights, as they limit the amount of contact passengers face with potential coronavirus carriers.

Professor Lutsar noted that the virus spreads via human contact, not in planes themselves, adding that the 25 per 100,000 figure should be raised.

As reported on ERR News, from Monday there will be direct flights to and from Tallinn from nine European countries, namely Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia and the U.K., whose reported COVID-19 rates all fall below the 25 per 100,000 inhabitants' benchmark.

Restricted countries include Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, France, Iceland, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Speaking at the regular Thursday government press conference, foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) reaffirmed the 25 per 100,000 rate. The figure is a separate one from that imposed by Reinsalu's own ministry of 16 COVID-19 cases confirmed per 100,000 inhabitants, beyond which arrivals in Estonia have to self-quarantine, or return negative on two COVID-19 tests taken shortly after arrival and within seven days after that, to avoid having to quarantine.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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