As of Monday, October 12, arrivals in Estonia from European countries with a reported coronavirus rate of less than 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants may do so without the need to self-quarantine, under a new regulation which employs a multiplier rather than a fixed rate in determining whether to apply quarantine.
The change, which the government announced on Friday, was primarily made to maintain ease of movement for people from Estonia's nearest EU neighbors, and to simplify weekly recalculations, which saw changes to whose countries' arrivals in Estonia would need to quarantine and whose not almost every week.
The change reflects the rate of the country of origin in relative to Estonia's current rate, rather than a restriction set in stone regardless of what Estonia's rate is.
The move is also in-line with the EU's desire to denote any countries with a COVID-19 rate below 25 per 100,000 as on the "green" list, meaning no-quarantine.
Prime minister: Measure protects health while facilitating travel
"[We have] Innovations in the conditions of self-isolation for those traveling outside Estonia," Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) wrote on his social media page Friday afternoon, announcing the change.
"We reached a decision in the cabinet to relax the requirements so that, on the one hand, the health of our people can continue to be protected and, on the other hand, it will get easier to travel."
"With the decisions below, we also support the harmonization of general principles relating to travel in the EU. The corresponding proposal was made by the Council of the EU," Ratas went on, before outlining the changes.
"With all this, the recommendation to travel only when absolutely necessary and to postpone tourism to the future still applies," Ratas added.
The government decision (in Estonian) is here.
The previous ceiling in Estonia had been 16 per 100,000, which meant that the list of countries whose arrivals in Estonia needed to quarantine continued to grow each week, until all bar Finland, Latvia and the Vatican were on the quarantine-list.
This system remains in place over the weekend and the new rules enter into effect on Monday.
Under 25 per 100,000 no quarantine, over 50 per 100,000 always quarantine
Under the new regime, the rules for those arriving in Estonia from EU/EEA countries will be:
- From states with a 14-day COVID-19 rate of under 25 per 100,000 inhabitants: No quarantine requirement.
- From countries with a rate of 25-49 per 100,000: No quarantine requirement if the rate is no more than 1.1 that of Estonia at that time; must quarantine if the rate is higher than x1.1 of Estonia's.
- From countries with a rate of 50 or more COVID-19 cases per 100,000: Must quarantine regardless of Estonia's rate.
Estonia's present 14-day rate is 52.07 per 100,000.
- If Estonia's rate fell too, for example, 30 cases per 100,000, the limit, once the 1.1 multiplier is factored in, would be 33 cases per 100,000 (30*1.1). Arrivals from countries with a higher rate than 33 would have to quarantine.
- Should it rise to 60, for instance, the limit would still be 50 (since 60*1.1=66, which exceeds the 50 ceiling).
In reality, once Estonia's rate goes above 45 per 100,000 the ceiling of 50 per 100,000 kicks in any case.
In all cases, countries with a rate below 25 per 100,000 are on the green list for arrivals.
Keeping border open for arrivals from Finland, Latvia, Lithuania
Free movement between the Baltic States and Finland remains in force
The move allows quarantine-free entry to people coming from Latvia, Finland and Lithuania, all of whose rates are below 50 per 100,000 and/or below 1.1 the rate of Estonia.
Previously, travelers from Latvia and Finland had not been required to quarantine, but those from Lithuania had.
"This amendment guarantees the earlier valid principle that people can come to Estonia from these countries to work, study, see a doctor, participate in unavoidable family events or for transit purposes," the government said in Friday's statement.
In practice, the new regulations would render about half-a-dozen EU/EEA countries on last week's quarantine list now quarantine-free.
Double-testing option remains
Quarantining a full 14 days can be avoided by testing negative on a COVID-19 test taken immediately upon arrival (testing sites are at Tallinn Airport and the ferry terminals) and testing negative again within a seven-day period.
Individuals must still fully quarantine until they get the first test results (which can come in a matter of hours, via text message notification in the case of negative results) and, if these are negative, may leave the place of stay for essential purchases until the second test's results are in. If these are negative too, the individual is free of quarantine requirements.
Quarantine period still 14 days
The quarantine period remains 14 days. Latvia had reduced its quarantine period to 10 days, but announced on Friday it would be put back up to 14 days.
Updated infection rates
The foreign ministry's updated list of coronavirus rates among European countries is as follows. Countries whose rate is above the 50 cases per 100,000 ceiling, meaning arrivals from those states must quarantine in Estonia for 14 days, from Monday, October 12, are in bold.
Arrivals from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Liechtenstein, Norway and the Vatican must still quarantine on arrival in Estonia until midnight Sunday, October 11. From Monday they no longer need to.
The ceiling between the time of writing and Monday remains at 16 per 100,000.
- Andorra 1,069.9
- Austria 122.2
- Belgium 292.5
- Bulgaria 49.4
- Croatia 76.2
- Czech Republic 374.6
- Cyprus 27.7
- Denmark 109.4
- Finland 31.9*
- France 257.2
- Germany 38.6
- Greece 43.5
- Hungary 131.4
- Iceland 195.0
- Ireland 120.5
- Italy 52.0
- Latvia 35.9*
- Liechtenstein 33.9
- Lithuania 55.5*
- Luxembourg 167.6
- Malta 118.5
- Monaco 84.6
- Netherlands 285.4
- Norway 30.6
- Poland 67.5
- Portugal 105.0
- Romania 134.7
- San Marino 81.3
- Slovakia 136.1
- Slovenia 116.8
- Spain 307.0
- Sweden 68.6
- Switzerland 64.6
- United Kingdom 201.9
- Vatican 0.0
*In accordance with clause 42 of Order No 282 of the Government of the Republic, restrictions on the freedom of movement do not apply asymptomatic persons who have been in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Latvia or the Republic of Finland for the past 14 days and who arrive in the Republic of Estonia directly from said countries if the cumulative number of positive tests for the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 causing the COVID-19 disease per 100,000 inhabitants for the past 14 days in said countries is greater than 25 and they arrive for the purpose of working, studying or receiving health services or for family reasons or transit.
This limit will be reviewed on a weekly basis on Fridays and the new limit will take force the following Monday.
Countries outside the European Union
Arrivals from Canada, Georgia and Tunisia must quarantine on arrival in Estonia, for 14 days.
Arrivals from Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand and Uruguay do not need to quarantine.
Valga/Valka "bubble" kept open
Data on national rates will still be published on the foreign affairs ministry's website each Friday, the government says.
Residents of the border town of Valga can still cross the Latvian border into the adjacent town of Valka, provided they stay within the town's municipality, without needing to quarantine, regardless of the reported COVID-19 rate.
A reciprocal measure is in place for residents of Valka wishing to go to Valga and reflects the close commercial, cultural and social ties in the two towns.
Following EU lead
An additional EU criterion for "green list" inclusion is that a country's rate of positive COVID-19 tests remains below 4 percent – in other words, even if a country had a rate lower than 25 cases per 100,000 people, if its positive test rate were above 4 percent of those tested, quarantine would likely apply.
Estonia's current COVID-19 positive test rate is 1.65 percent, from 229,601 primary tests conducted since the end of January.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommendations
Due to the spread of the coronavirus, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against any non-essential international travel.
In cases where travelling is essential, the Foreign Ministry advises keeping the following in mind:
- Before planning your trip, please consult the Foreign Ministry website for the infection rate in your planned country of destination;
- Stay up to date with possible travel restrictions in your destination – please consult the Reisi Targalt website, the ReOpen portal of the European Union, and, if necessary, contact the foreign mission of the country of destination for details;
- Register your trip at the Foreign Ministry's Reisi Targalt website to allow us to notify you of possible travel restrictions;
- Follow the recommendations of the Estonian Health Board for a safe flight to protect your health and that of others – if you show symptoms, please postpone your trip and contact your GP;
- Take out travel insurance and carefully read the conditions of your insurance (including for travel interruptions caused by COVID-19);
- At your destination, follow the instructions of local authorities and keep up to date with possible new restrictions;
- On your return, follow the rules introduced in Estonia, monitor your health, and if you suspect you have been infected with the virus, contact your GP.
Countries can change their conditions for entry and stay at short notice. The ministry recommends contacting the representation or the relevant authorities of the destination country for more detailed information about the conditions that apply there.
Information about the coronavirus and restrictions on the freedom of movement is available on the kriis.ee website, or by calling the national helpline 1247 (+372 600 1247 when calling from abroad).
Editor: Andrew Whyte