Government looking for ways to restrict travel from third countries

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Estonian-Russian border in Narva. Source: ERR

The government wants to change the law so a negative test can be requested at the border from travelers who have not been vaccinated or recovered from coronavirus.

Last week, the number of coronavirus infections brought in to Estonia from travelers increased. There were a total of 49 cases and 32 of them were imported from Russia, ETV's current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Wednesday evening.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Justice will present an analysis to the government which shows how it is possible to make Estonian legislation stricter so a negative test can be requested on entry to Estonia by people who are unvaccinated or have not recovered from the virus.

Both the Health Board and the government's scientific advisory council have suggested changing the rules but this cannot be done without changing the law, Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) told AK.

"I personally consider it very important that this test requirement be extended before boarding the appropriate means of public transport, be it an airplane, a ship, any other mode of public transport, because if a person only takes the test on-site then there is a risk that they may infect many others," he said.

"It is clear that the government, as a whole, today has the desire and the will to impose such a requirement," Kiik said, adding the rule could also be used in the future if other similar pandemics occur.

According to the current rules, people entering Estonia from third countries must be fully vaccinated and the 14-day period to develop immunity must have passed. Travelers who have had Russia's Sputnik V vaccine are allowed to enter, even though most of Europe does not use the vaccine. But this does not mean quarantine can be skipped.

Kerstin-Gertrud Kärblane, chief specialist of the Health Board's Infectious Diseases Department, told AK: "Then it is possible to enter Estonia if you come here for work or study, but in that case, you have to stay in self-isolation in Estonia for 10 days, which can be shortened by taking two tests if they are both negative."

She said random checks are being carried out on people who are self-isolating but no additional monitoring is being carried out.  

Cases being imported from Russia are a concern for the Estonian government as Russia currently has a large-scale outbreak of the Delta variant and many people cross the border regularly.

Additionally, few people are vaccinated against coronavirus in Estonia's most eastern county, Ida-Viru County, which borders Russia. While Russia also has a very low vaccination rate.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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