The Health Board (Terviseamet) recommends people stay in Estonia for the upcoming school break, and to only travel when absolutely unavoidable.
Since travel restriction discussions are continuing at EU level, the Health Board says that the option of essential travel should remain available, but that this shouldn't mean non-essential vacations and the like, during the half-term school break (the week starting October 19). The board is also keeping in mind the experience of the spring break and COVID-19 infections which found their way back to Estonia at that time.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said common EU regulations on travel, as presented by Germany, are suitable for Estonia also. Per Germany's proposal, the EU would not establish travel restrictions for member states whose infection rate per 100,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days remains under 25 and if COVID-19 positive test rates remain below 4 percent.
Reinsalu said: "It is key in Germany's proposal that this essential travel option must remain. In addition, it is important that warnings are given on when some restrictions are established. I think these proposals are a foundation on which the Estonian government can build going forward. It is important that we have a common understanding with other countries in our region. It is necessary for transit and travel for work."
As of Monday, October 5, direct flights between Tallinn and Brussels are again open after being suspended for over six months. Direct flights from Tallinn also go to Copenhagen, Frankfurt and London, as they are now permitted to countries where the infection rate per 100,000 people is no higher than double the average indicator for the EU. This means most EU countries are open for direct flights at the moment.
Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Taavi Aas (Center) said: "Our first coronavirus wave (in spring) was directly connected with travel during school breaks. The Health Board is understandably worried that this might happen again. Flight restrictions on tourism are more for deterrence. It is understandable that if someone really wants to travel, they can make it happen. But [restrictions] are mainly meant to prevent tourism en masse."
Hanna Sepp, chief specialist in communicable disease surveillance and epidemic control at the Health Board, said that the rate of new cases relating to travel has remained low. "The absolute number remains in the 20 range weekly. New cases mainly come from Finland, Russia, Ukraine, Austria, Italy and Germany."
The Health Board considers it important to restore direct flights to reduce close contacts stemming from transfers between planes. At the same time, the Health Board recommends all travel be avoided, especially for the school break on October 19-25.
Sepp noted: "Our common recommendation is to avoid travel and to follow that in the context of the coming school break. If families are used to taking foreign vacations then perhaps this year we can find beautiful locations in Estonia and rest in Estonia."
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste