Social affairs minister: Government to discuss losing flight restrictions

Tanel Kiik.
Tanel Kiik. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) told ERR on Monday that the government is trying to reach a point of understanding in updating travel restrictions and self-isolation requirements this week.

Kiik said: "Right now, it is important for the government that we clarify everything in terms of travel restrictions and self-isolation requirements, movement between neighboring countries and European Union countries as well."

On Saturday, ERR News wrote that Estonia has banned direct flights to and from Sweden and Norway as COVID-19 rates in those two countries continue to rise. Direct flights to Sweden in particular have been non-existent through much of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking on the flight restrictions, Kiik said that flight travel and self-isolation are in need of changes. Estonia's new case rate per 100,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days is 30.85, as of Monday, September 21.

Kiik explained: "Those were set at a time when the infection rate for Estonia and the Baltics was much different. Today, those restrictions are not justified in a situation where our own spread is nearly double the initial number (16 per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days - ed.). Direct flight restrictions in their current form do not give us the desired result, rather develop many difficulties for travelers in reaching their destination."

The social minister continued: "This does not mean we should go the way of completely losing them but they must certainly be looked at."

He said the government will continue discussions on the topic this week, as the government's coronavirus committee will congregate on Tuesday.

Kiik said communication with local regions is critical when it comes to establishing new restrictions. "For example, the particular region of the Health Board (Terviseamet) has to discuss risks with the particular region's municipality government as outbreaks are different. There is a clear difference if we are dealing with a care home, hospital, education establishment, some workplaces or a wider regional spread."

The social minister added: "This revolving around the number of infected patients does not actually give us the whole picture, nor a clear recommendation of which measures are sufficient in the particular reason. This does still mean we need to sit down, map out the situation rapidly and then make the necessary decisions."

Kiik noted that the government's role in a nation-wide situation should be to monitor the situation. "If we see the situation getting out of control in a particular region, then state interference with sufficient measures must be done."

He said there is no reason to believe there is hidden spread in Estonia currently.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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