Government establishes testing requirement for travellers arriving from countries at high risk of new strain of coronavirus

30.11.2021 | 16:21

Stenbock House, 30 November 2021 – By government decree, all travellers arriving in Estonia from countries where there is a heightened risk of becoming infected with the new strain of coronavirus known as Omicron will have to undergo testing from 1 December. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas explained that initially this requirement will remain in force for a period of two weeks, until 15 December (inclusive).
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Prime Minister Kaja Kallas: “The government’s aim in imposing the requirement is to restrict the spread of Omicron until we have gained more detailed scientific information about the strain,” the head of government said. “In that regard we are awaiting data on just how infectious Omicron is and how serious its impact is in comparison with the Delta strain. Vaccination is more important than ever. Now is the time for those who are as yet unvaccinated to get themselves inoculated, and anyone waiting for a booster shot is recommended to get it as soon as possible. Our greater aim is to keep society as open as we can going forward by preventing the spread of the virus.”

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has named the following eight countries in southern Africa as risk countries in regard to the Omicron strain of coronavirus: Botswana; e-Swatini; Lesotho; Malawi; Mozambique; Namibia; the Republic of South Africa; and Zimbabwe. For epidemiological reasons, the Estonian Health Board has added Egypt and Turkey to the list of risk countries. Testing will become mandatory for all travellers coming from these countries from tomorrow, regardless of whether they arrive in Estonia by air, land or sea.

Arrivals from Omicron risk countries must get tested or self-isolate

Those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the last 12 months or who have contracted and recovered from the illness in the last six months do not need to self-isolate if they take a PCR test immediately upon arriving in the country and the test returns a negative result.

Those who are unvaccinated or who have not contracted and recovered from COVID-19 can shorten the 10-day isolation period by getting tested. To do this, they must take an initial PCR test immediately upon arriving in Estonia and a repeat test no sooner than on the sixth day after their arrival. If the results of both tests are negative, they no longer have to isolate.

Until notification of a negative test result is obtained, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people must remain in their homes or accommodation.

Anyone who is unwilling to test for coronavirus upon arriving from a risk country must self-isolate for a period of 10 days.

Tests can be taken at Tallinn Airport as well as at all other coronavirus testing sites, a list of which can be found online at https://koroonatestimine.ee/testimispunktid/. Testing is free of charge for residents of Estonia.

The testing requirement applies to all travellers irrespective of their mode of arrival in Estonia. The testing and isolation requirement does not extend to those passing through Estonia as a transit country.

The new coronavirus variant B.1.1.529 was detected in Botswana on 11 November and in the Republic of South Africa on 14 November. The strain, which has since been named Omicron, has more mutations in total than the Delta variant in regions associated with the spread of and repeated infection with the virus. The World Health Organization considers Omicron a strain of concern. On 29 November the ECDC recommended that Member States of the European Union make PCR tests and 7-14 days’ quarantine mandatory for both vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers arriving from Omicron risk countries.

Whereas testing is mandatory to avoid or shorten the period of self-isolation when coming from risk countries, the government strongly recommends that travellers coming from all other countries also take a PCR test upon arrival.

The Government Communication Office will publish the order and explanatory note online at kriis.ee.

Government Communication Unit