From today, Tuesday, February 2, arrivals in Estonia who have proof of vaccination will not need to quarantine, the Health Board (Terviseamet) says. Vaccinations can be from one of nine global suppliers, as things stand, and not only the three European Union-approved producers. The same exemption will apply to those who have already contracted the coronavirus during the preceding six months, and recovered, providing they also have proof of this.
The development means that the board, in conjunction with the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), will be potentially receiving health certificates from a variety of countries. The Health Board says that foreign nationals' certificate of vaccination must meet certain criteria, including language.
Hanna Sepp, Head of the Health Board's Infectious Diseases Surveillance and Epidemic Control Department, said: "[A certificate] must reflect the individual's personal data in Estonian, Russian or English, as well as the disease against which the person has been vaccinated, when the vaccine was formulated, which vaccine was used (several manufacturers coronavirus vaccinations are now on the market – ed.) , as well as data on the issuer of the vaccine, and the vaccine batch number.
Vaccination certificates must be in English, Estonian or Russian
The three languages accepted must also be in one of the two standard alphabets, i.e. the Roman or Cyrillic alphabets, the board says.
At present three company's coronavirus vaccines are authorized by the European Medicines Agency, those from U.S.-German firms Pfizer/BioNTech, U.K.-Swedish firm AstraZeneca and U.S. company Moderna.
However, worldwide the number of producers rises to nine, though Hanna Sepp said that vaccinations from any of these will meet the quarantine exemption requirement, which was also decided on the grounds of expediency.
She said: "This is to show mutual solidarity. If we take into account vaccines in use in other countries, we could hope that vaccines in use in our country will also be taken into account in other countries."
With avoiding quarantine on the basis of having recovered from the virus, a family doctor's note is not sufficient, however, Sepp said, and proof of a recent coronavirus-negative test is required. This must also be in the three language/two alphabets noted above. As for testing itself – a way of shortening quarantine times already – only nasopharyngeal and World Health Organization (WHO)-approved tests are valid, the board says.
PPA: No comprehensive international database of coronavirus vaccines and tests on horizon
The board will be fully cooperating with the PPA in checking the validity of vaccine and health certificates, though the PPA says a comprehensive database of such international documents is unlikely to be set up.
Veiko Järva, head of the PPA's Southern Prefecture information office, told ERR Monday afternoon that: "We actually trust the individual and any document in their possession which on visual inspection does not arouse our suspicions. And if the person is also healthy on the outside, he or she displays no signs of illness, then in the PPA's view we will not impose any additional restrictions on the person."
For Estonian citizens and residents the system is even simpler – data from the Health Board's information system (TEHIK) is enough.
At the same time, the issue of those who have received the Sputnik V Russian-made vaccine has not been decided on.
Hanna Sepp said: "We haven't quite talked about it. Instead, we have assumed that Estonians will vaccinate themselves with the vaccines we currently have."
Status of Sputnik V vaccines not clear yet
Sputnik V has faced international criticism over both fears that it had not been sufficiently trialled and tested, and also its being used for political purposes. Several countries worldwide, including India and China, have procured Sputnik V vaccines, while one EU country – Hungary – has done the same.
The same approach applies to the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, Sepp said.
The new regulation comes into effect Tuesday, but with 100 million people estimated to have been vaccinated worldwide so far, in over 60 countries, according to Bloomberg, – and over 100 million people estimated to have contracted the virus worldwide – there is a risk of forgery of certificates, Sepp added.
However, this is nothing new – as early as the spring coronavirus wave, false negative test results were already circulating, with several people arrested in Paris last November for attempting to sell fake certicates to arrivals in France. Other countries where reports of forged vaccination certificates have emerged include Zimbabwe and Russia, ERR reports.
Editor: Andrew Whyte