Justice ministry tasked with drawing up border crossing bill

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Estonian-Russian border in Narva. Source: ERR

Minister of Justice Maris Lauri (Reform) has given her employees a firm guideline to draw up a bill concerning border crossing by Thursday; the strictest entry rules will be applied to Russia, which has been struck by the Delta strain of coronavirus, and according to the draft, border crossing may be stopped if the coronavirus situation worsens, the daily Postimees writes.

After a legal analysis, the government knows that Estonia has a legal possibility to require a negative coronavirus test result at the Russian border. At present, people can come to Estonia from Russia if a vaccination certificate or proof of having recovered from COVID-19 is presented. Those vaccinated are also not subject to the restriction on freedom of movement.

Egert Belitšev, deputy director general of the Police and Border Guard Board, said that checking the COVID-19 certificates of third countries increases the workload of the police authority.

"Vaccination certificates issued by Estonia have a QR code, which can be scanned to quickly check the accuracy and timeliness of the data. Vaccination certificates issued to third-country nationals are often on paper and without security features, which are difficult and time-consuming to verify," Belitšev said.

Belitšev said that vaccination, recovery, or negative test result certificates that are inadequate or suspected to be falsified have been discovered on the eastern and southeastern borders, in the past also in the northern region.

"These people are also prevented from entering the country. In addition, there are rumors that in some third countries it is possible to obtain vaccination certificates for money without actually going through a vaccination course," he added.

"The government sitting is on Thursday and according to all indications, it can be assumed that the bill will be adopted by then," Lauri told Postimees and added that employees have been told that the bill should be ready as soon as possible.

According to the draft to be completed, all those coming from third countries, such as Russia, must present a negative coronavirus nasopharyngeal test result. In addition, Estonia can establish rules on the conditions of entry: if people come to Estonia by plane from Russia, they must already have a negative coronavirus test result. "And if they come by land, for example via the Narva border checkpoint, the test is carried out at the border," Lauri said.

However, if it turns out that the test is positive, Estonia has the right not to admit third-country nationals and send them back from the border. In the case of Estonian residents, Estonian citizens or European Union citizens, they must be allowed to their homeland - in which case they will be subject to movement restrictions and other measures to prevent them from infecting other people.

"Naturally, our own people can return to their homeland regardless of whether they are sick or healthy," Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said, adding that infected Estonian people must remain in isolation once they arrive home.

The government agreed that upon arrival in Estonia from countries with a high risk of infection, a rapid antigen test will be accepted alongside the PCR test. If the result of the initial rapid test is negative, a PCR test must be performed on the sixth day to shorten the isolation period.

 Last week, the government decided that getting tested before arriving in Estonia will become mandatory for all foreigners who come to Estonia from third countries with a high risk of infection and who have not completed the COVID-19 vaccination course, government spokespeople said.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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