Kallas: Doing all we can to stem returning vacationer COVID-19 influx

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Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. Source: ERR

Checks at Tallinn Airport have been stepped up to ensure arrivals fill out health declarations adequately, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says, while noting that the state is doing all it can within the latitude of the constitution at a time when families and others are returning from foreign holidays, and ahead of the relaxing of the current restrictions regime, from Monday.

In response to a question from MP Siim Pohlak (EKRE), Kallas said that testing availability matches the requirements that arrivals not come to Estonia without passing negative on a test.

Kallas said that: "I would also point out that most scheduled flights carry an obligation – or have made a commitment – not to let passengers board a plane under any circumstances, without a negative test."

"So, of course, our concern is that new strains will not be introduced, and we will to do everything possible that the constitution allows us," she went on, appearing before the Riigikogu for prime minister's questions Wednesday.

Entering Estonia from most European states and elsewhere triggers a mandatory quarantine period of 10 days, in the absence of an up-to-date, proven negative test result.

While fewer people had traveled than during February's school break, the prime minister said, around 5,700 had nonetheless taken foreign trips during the current break (compared with over 30,000 in February).

Health minister: Mandatory testing not possible under constitution

Meanwhile, health minister Tanel Kiik (Center) said that despite the stepping up of checks and concerns over new coronavirus strain, testing cannot be made mandatory at Estonia's borders.

Kiik told ERR that: "The use or non-use of health care services is voluntary in Estonia. No one can conceive of a situation where a family arriving from abroad is confronted with the reality that if they do not take a [coronavirus] test, they will not be able to enter the country."

"It is also not constitutionally permissible," he added.

Nonetheless, testing both shortens mandatory quarantine times and gives the individual peace of mind on their coronavirus status.

Since this is best practice and non-Estonian arrivals in the country seem to be ready to take tests, widening capacities was a good idea, Kiik added, while the state is cooperating with travel companies and carriers to roll-out health declarations.

Health board deputy: Keeping more potent COVID-19 variants out of Estonia key

The government has as a whole made a requirement not to travel, in the face of new COVID-19 strains being identified.

Mari-Anne Härma, Deputy Director General at the Health Board (Terviseamet), said at a press conference Wednesday that travel overseas through summer and balancing this with keeping out more virulent strains will be a challenge.

One of the primary sources of imported COVID-19 strains is Egypt, she said, though the bulk of the more potent variants so far found in Estonia are the so-called British strain, which similarly arrived via introduced cases and then propagated internally.

A little under 50 cases of the so-called South African strain have been found in Estonia, she added, close to half of these having been picked up inside the country.

Families returning from a school holiday have the responsibility of ensuring they are not affected and remaining quarantine – children included.

A total of 111 new COVID-19 cases entered Estonia last week alone, 45 of them originating in Egypt.

Arrivals in Estonia can now make their health declarations online.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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