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Government approves law on COVID-19 vaccination, testing proof requirement

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Coronavirus vaccination certificate displayed on a smartphone..
Coronavirus vaccination certificate displayed on a smartphone.. Source: GuardTime.

The government has approved legislation which can enable employers to require proof of coronavirus status on the part of their employees, where the risk is deemed, by the employer, to merit it.

The government agreed in principle Tuesday to make it easier for employers to dismiss staff who refuse to get vaccinated or tested for coronavirus, or who decline to provide proof of either; in practice this would likely affect only job areas with the highest coronavirus risk, such as the health-care sector or jobs which involve coming into contact with significant numbers of people, and comes a month after a government ruling which placed responsibility of getting vaccinated in the hands of the employer – in other words placing the decision on an employer rather than having a government-mandated vaccination requirement.

Under the new regulations and based on a risk assessment, an employer may require any of its employees, who frequently come into contact with others in the course of their work, to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Alternatively the staff member can provide proof of a recent negative test, or of recovery from a previous bout with the virus, or even "other measures that reduce the risk of infection", which would include the use of personal protective equipment, ERR reports.

Stakeholders on both sides of the employer/employee divide were consulted during the regulations' drafting, including the Central Union of Employers (Tööandjate keskliit), the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kaubandus-tööstuskoda), the Estonian Confederation of Trade Unions (EAKL), and the Estonian Association of SMEs (EVEA), as well as state agencies the Labor Inspectorate (Tööinspektsioon) and the Health Board (Terviseamet).

It is on the employer to identify infection risks in the workplace, a practice which will, ERR reports, better protect the health of both staff and customers, clients etc.

The regulation relates to biological hazards and was approved Thursday.

PPA to get €700,000 additional funding to help with compliance checks at events

Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Thursday that it is now key to pay attention to both vaccination status and compliance with existing restrictions, including the wearing of face-masks on public transport, and quarantine upon arrival, for the unvaccinated.

He added that further changes may be on the horizon, including potentially requiring face-mask wearing at events without coronavirus vaccine/testing checks (which can only involve up to 50 people, if indoors, in any case – ed.).

Kiik told AK that: "There are negotiations going on with the private sector as to what additional steps they themselves are willing to take - namely shopping malls, grocery stores - to ensure safety."

"Similarly, the question is just when COVID-certified events will become the norm," he added.

The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) is to receive an additional €700,000 towards stepped-up checks.

Kiik could not give a time-scale at this point on when any potential new restrictions may emerge.

This article was updated to include health minister Tanel Kiik's comments to AK.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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