Estonia has no plans to lay on special flights to bring its citizens home from the United Kingdom, following reports that a more potent strain of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly there.
Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa): "As to the question of whether we currently have an option on the table for a so-called evacuation flight, the answer is no, no such decision has been made."
Tiina Kallasmaa, head of the foreign ministry's consular assistance office, told ERR Monday that, 38 Estonian citizens are trapped in the U.K. and unable to return home, following Sunday's announcement that flights were suspended between the two countries.
While Estonia's decision was made jointly with Latvia and Lithuania, several other European countries, including the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, have so far followed suit.
Over 11,000 Estonian citizens have registered to remain legally in the U.K. following the end of the Brexit transition period in 10 days' time, on December 31, with a potential deal between the U.K. and EU still up in the air.
The foreign ministry has also told Estonian citizens resident in the U.K. to register as such on its website in any case, and that those with exceptional issues should approach the ministry's consular department for potential help. For everyone else, the ministry and the Estonian Embassy in London strongly advise against travel to the U.K.
During the initial spring wave of COVID-19, several special ferry journeys were laid on to transport Estonian citizens and residents stuck in Germany while trying to return home by land, after Poland closed its borders. In the current case the decision was made by the Estonian government, however.
The U.K.'s reported 14-day coronavirus rate was as of Friday lower than all three Baltic States, at 348.2 per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with 453.1 for Latvia, 516.11 for Estonia (fresh figures released by the Health Board today – ed.) and 1,205.9 in the case of Lithuania.
The reaction largely stems from the reported contagious nature of the new strain, which is rapidly spreading in London and the South-East, the one region to be on the strictest (Tier 4) level of lock-down in England and Wales at present. Reports say that there is no evidence the strain, which was originally identified in September, brings with it a higher mortality rate or lessens the effectiveness of the newly-rolled-out vaccine.
Editor: Andrew Whyte