Minister: Quarantine for lower COVID-19 rate nations than Estonia illogical

Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center) on Tuesday's
Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center) on Tuesday's "Vikerhommik". Source: ERR/Kadri Põlendik

Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center) says that coronavirus flight restrictions and quarantine regulations are outdated, particularly with countries with a lower COVID-19 reported rate than Estonia's seeing direct flights to and from Estonia banned. A move towards a moving figure based on Estonia's current coronavirus rate would be more sensible, he said.

Kiik also said that the quarantine period for arrivals from high-risk coronavirus countries will be shortened, from the current 14 days, to 10 days – a move Latvia has already made.

"If we take a country with an indicator of 20 [coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants], then a person must remain in a situation of self-esteem, where in Estonia the rate is currently at 30 [per 100,000]," Kiik told ERR radio show "Vikerhommik" Tuesday morning.

"This must be science-based and I know that the [government's coronavirus] scientific council supports a similar approach where the restriction could be related to the Estonian indicator. In other words, if a country's rate is higher than Estonia's, then the quarantine requirement would be in place, if it is not, then not," he went on.

Currently, arrivals from countries with a 14-day COVID-19 rate over 16 per 100,000 inhabitants would have to self-quarantine on arrival in Estonia, under a regulation imposed by the foreign ministry. The economic affairs ministry additionally has set a ceiling of 25 per 100,000 COVID-19 cases, beyond which a country may not have direct flight links with Estonia.

These both mean, as noted, that arrivals from countries, or direct flights to and from countries, with a lower coronavirus rate than Estonia's would nonetheless be barred.

Economics affairs minister Taavi Aas (Center) recently said that the 25 per 100,000 rate was similarly outmoded. Both rates were installed at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kiik also said Tuesday that setting a set rate, which could soon be exceeded in Estonia if COVID-19 rates continue to rise, is less sensible than setting a coefficient based on the current rate in Estonia. In other words, as Estonia's rate goes up, so too does the ceiling beyond which arrivals have to self-quarantine.

Shortening the quarantine rate was also sensible, he said.

"It is true that shortening is a recent trend. Norway and Latvia have done it and Germany supports the principle. Most European countries are still on 14 days' quarantining, but at the end of the day, reducing it is reasonable, as over 90 percent of [coronavirus] infections tend to pass within ten days. Yes, there is certainly always a risk that the incubation period will be longer than 14 days. But I still hope we will make that change in the near future."

Finnish government has not made concrete decision backing Reinsalu claim

Kiik also said with regard to sick pay and the virus, he favors a situation where the state picks up the tab from day six, with days two to five being the responsibility of an employer, in order to cut down on the risk of the abuse of sick pay provisions.

Kiik also said that the Finnish government has not confirmed that from next Monday, September 28, people traveling from Estonia to Finland for work purposes will be exempt from quarantine requirements.

Kiik said that Reinsalu, who made the claim Monday, had referred to discussions going on, not firm decisions – a claim which has caused consternation in the Finnish media (link in Finnish).

"As far as I know, the real decisions will not be made in Finland until Thursday. They are faced with a difficult choice, according to which, and according to their indicators, arrivals from Estonia, Sweden and Norway should be required to self-quarantine. But we will know the final decision on Thursday," Kiik said.

Certain restrictions are likely to come regardless if exemptions are made in Finland for workers traveling from Estonia, or those traveling for family reasons.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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