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All questions and answers

Here you can find answers and questions about the emergency situation in Estonia, also find instructions for behaving in that situation.

Q & A

 

Focus: Beginning of a new school year, travelling restrictions, testing for coronavirus

 

What are the restrictions in cinemas, theatres and concerts?

Public events (performances. concerts, festivals, folk culture events, fairs, conferences etc.) are permitted but no more than 2000 visitors may attend events in the open air, or 750 at indoor events (where rooms must not be filled to more than 50% capacity).

The 50% capacity requirement indoors does not apply to theatre performances, concerts and cinema screenings, conferences or public meetings and events, as long as there are fixed seats available for the entire audience. The 50% capacity exception does not apply to events where temporary seating is used.

It is still obligatory for the visitors to keep a distance with other people at the events, and it is obligatory to the organizers to guarantee access to disinfectant and adherence to the disinfecting requirements.

Am I allowed to go to Latvia without staying in self-isolation?

In certain cases, an Estonian citizen or a permanent resident can go to Latvia without staying in self-isolation.

  • It is allowed to drive a personal car to Riga Airport in order to take somebody to a flight or from a flight to Estonia if no public places are visited in Latvia, the driver is not symptomatic and has not stayed in a country of high infection risk within the last 14 days.
  • Transit through Latvia is allowed within 12 hours without overnight stay. Transit generally means travelling through a country in order to get from one place to another.
  • The state border can be crossed for carrying out the duties of employment. You must have a document confirming the reason for travel (employment contract, cooperation agreement, commercial register statement etc.) with you;
  • in order to receive childcare service or obtain full-time formal education at a preschool level (by presenting a certificate issued by the provider of the service or the educational institution);
  • to accompany a student who is a minor or an adult with special needs to childcare, kindergarten, school;
  • in order to take care of relatives, organise a funeral or participate in a funeral;
  • in order to receive medical care in Latvia prescribed by a doctor (by presenting a certificate or referral issued by the doctor);

General requirements for persons staying in the territory of Latvia:

  • a person cannot be symptomatic;
  • a person has not stayed in a country of high infection risk (a red country) within the last 14 days;
  • a face mask must be used in public places;
  • in order to not endanger the health of other people, excessive contacts must be avoided (no going for visits, no visits to crowded places etc.).

The final decision on the self-isolation requirement is made by the Latvian border guard.

For more information see the Reisi Targalt (Smart Travel) web page: https://reisitargalt.vm.ee/riigid/lati/

I am coming from Russia in a car, where can I get the corona test?

Currently there are 14 public coronavirus testing sites where you can go with a personal identification document at a pre-booked time to give a nasopharyngeal sample for the coronavirus test.

In order to book a time you must call the booking line of the testing centre 678 0000. Calls are taken from Monday to Friday 9.00-17.00.

The testing sites are located at:

  • Tallinn, Haabersti -- Paldiski mnt 104b, next to Saku Suurhall (SYNLAB tent)
  • Tallinn, Mustamägi -- Ehitajate tee 27, the parking lot of the Mustamäe Health Center (Medicum tent)
  • Tallinn, Lasnamägi -- Narva mnt 95, the Mäe gate of the Tallinn Song Festival Ground (Medicum tent)
  • Tartu -- Laulupeo puiestee 25, near the song festival ground (Qvalitas tent)
  • Viljandi -- the Viljandi market square (SYNLAB bus)
  • Pärnu -- Rannapark P1 the parking lot of Naisterand (Qvalitas tent)
  • Rakvere -- Tuleviku 1, the Rakvere polyclinic (SYNLAB office)
  • Paide -- Tallinna mnt 47, parking lot (SYNLAN bus)
  • Kuressaare -- Aia 25, in front of the main entrance of the Kuressaare hospital
  • Narva -- Joala 20, Narva Gate (Corrigo office)
  • Kohtla-Järve -- Ilmajaama 14, in the parking lot of the G-block (Ida-Viru Central Hospital tent)
  • Hiiumaa -- the location of giving the sample is agreed upon with Hiiumaa Hospital
  • Võru -- Kooli 4, in the parking lot of Kagukeskus, near the car wash (Qvalitas tent)

Can the self-isolation time of a close contact be reduced with testing?

The self-isolation time of a close contact cannot be reduced.

I have a referral to COVID-19 testing. Why has the testing center not called me yet?

Due to the increase in testing volumes, the waiting lines are slightly longer. If you gave a correct phone number when the referral was issued, you will definitely be contacted.

How can I avoid contracting the coronavirus and what should I do if I suspect I might be infected?

To avoid catching the coronavirus:

  • Wash your hands with soap under running water, use alcohol-based hand disinfectant, if necessary.

  • Avoid contact. Keep a distance of at least two metres from people who are coughing or sneezing. If you stand too close to a person with symptoms of the disease, you may contract the disease yourself. 

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. If you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with contaminated hands, it is possible that the virus will be transmitted to you as well. 

If you suspect you might be infected:

  • If you have mild symptoms of a respiratory disease, follow the usual hand hygiene guidelines carefully and stay at home until you have recovered.

  • Monitor your health. If you have a fever, cough or breathing difficulties, seek help early. Call your family doctor or the GP hotline at 1220.

To stop the spread of microbes and the virus:

  • If you sneeze or cough, cover your nose and mouth with a single use tissue. Throw it into the bin immediately after, and then clean your hands. If you do not have a tissue, use your sleeve (the inside of your elbow), but do not use your bare hand.  
  • Covering your mouth and nose helps prevent spreading the virus. If you sneeze into a bare hand, you might transfer the contamination and viruses to others as well as to objects that you touch.  

What are the steps for getting tested?

  • Tests should be done if symptoms appear. Symptoms usually appear 5-6 days after infection. In some cases the person infected is contagious a day or two before the symptoms appear.
  • If symptoms appear, stay at home and call your family doctor. The family doctor will decide whether a test is needed and will give health advice.
  • If the family doctor decides that you need a test, they will send an electronic request to the laboratory and they will call you to agree on the place and time for the test. Wait for the call. Tests can also be done at weekends and on national holidays.
  • Take an ID document with you to the test and be on time.
  • Only a person with an electronic referral can give the nasopharyngeal sample at the agreed time with an ID document. There is no point in coming just in case, only people with a prior registration are tested. You should come alone for the test.
  • Wait for the result. You will be called within two working days. The results will also be in the digilugu.ee portal.
  • If your test is positive, stay at home and follow the advice of your family doctor. If your health worsens, contact your family doctor again or call an ambulance on 112. 
  • If Covid-19 infection is confirmed you must remain in self-isolation as ordered by your doctor, following the same conditions as those required for quarantine by goverment order no 257. In either case you may only break quarantine in exceptional circumstances such as emergencies, police instructions, or going to hospital because of worsening health.

When and in what places will the state-wide restrictions on the night-time sale of alcohol be valid?

The restrictions on the night-time sale of alcohol all around Estonia will come into action on the night from 24 to 25 September from 00.00 to 10.00. The restrictions apply to all places where alcohol is being sold for consumption on the spot - for example bars, hightclubs, restaurants, theatre cafes, cinema bars, concert halls, hotels and other places. The restrictions will currently be valid until 24 October, one week before this date the government will decide if there is the need for extending the period of restrictions.

Can everybody who has arrived in Estonia and taken the coronavirus test and had a negative result go back to work immediately?

Even after a negative test result, the employer is not obligated to let their employee return to work.

The right to leave their place of residence or stay applies to people who are doing work that is unavoidably necessary at the decision of their employer. This means that the employer must consider each individual case, looking for example at whether the person who has arrived from a risky country can only do their work by physically being at work, or whether their work could be reorganised so that they may work from home for 14 calendar days. The employer should consider the possible risk of infection if the person is allowed to return to work, and should take all appropriate measures to prevent infection. If they are allowed to return, then the employer and the employee must take all possible steps to prevent the possible spread of the virus, such as keeping contact with other people to a minimum or using personal protection equipment. The employer must remember that even in these cases the rights and obligations of health and safety law apply, including the requirement to ensure safety at work and to carry out health tests.

Can people who have come to work or study in Estonia from a third country that is not on the European Union joint list shorten their restrictions on movement by taking a test?

People who have come to work or study in Estonia from a third country that is not on the European Union joint list cannot shorten the duration of restrictions on movement by taking a test.

How much does it cost for a foreigner to test for coronavirus at the border?

Foreign nationals can take the test for coronavirus at the airport and port for 67 euros. The cost of a second test is the same.

Which foreign nationals are allowed to enter Estonia as an exception?

As an exception, the following foreign nationals who do not show any signs of illness may enter Estonia:

  • employees at a foreign diplomatic representation or a consular office in Estonia, their family members, or foreign nationals arriving to Estonia in the framework of international military cooperation
  • members of a foreign delegation arriving in Estonia for a work meeting at the invitation of a state authority or local government authority
  • persons who are directly involved with transporting goods or raw materials, including loading of goods or raw materials
  • providers of healthcare or other services necessary for solving the emergency situation
  • persons who are directly involved in the international carriage of goods or passengers, including crew members serving on an international means of transport and persons performing repairs, warranty, or maintenance services on a means of transport
  • persons who provide services to groups of passengers and are directly involved in the provision of passenger transport services
  • persons whose purpose of arrival in Estonia is to ensure the performance of an essential service
  • persons whose arrival in Estonia is related to the maintenance, repair, warranty or information and communication technology of equipment of an enterprise operating in Estonia, where this is necessary to ensure the operation of the enterprise
  • persons who are immediately passing through the territory of Estonia in order to reach their country of residence
  • persons whose direct descendant or ascendant, relative or spouse is an Estonian national, holder of an Estonian residence permit or the right of residence
  • performers at a public event or the organisers of the event, persons who participate in a sports competition as athletes, or are directly involved in organising a sports competition or event that has been authorised by the Health Board
  • foreign nationals who have received a special permit to enter the country from the Police and Border Guard Board. The purpose of the special permit is to enable third-country nationals to apply for authorisation to cross the external border for the purpose of entering Estonia. Especially for family reasons, e.g. funerals, weddings, illness of a family member, an essential meeting with a family member, etc. The application must be sent to ppa[at]politsei[dot]ee. The application for permission to cross the border in exceptional circumstances can be found on the website of the Police and Border Guard Board: https://www.politsei.ee/en/instructions/emergency-situation

A foreign national who has been admitted to Estonia on the basis of a special permit is subject to a general restriction on the freedom of movement and may not leave his or her permanent residence or place of stay within 14 days. From 1 September, those returning to Estonia from COVID-19 risk countries will have the opportunity to be tested for coronavirus at the airport and port in order to shorten the period of self-isolation and allow them to return to work sooner. People are required to self-isolate completely until they receive their test results. In the case of a negative test result, a person must stay in limited self-isolation for the first seven days, which means that he or she can go to work and, for example, a shop, but must avoid unnecessary contacts. A second test must be performed no earlier than 7 days after the results of the first test, and if the results of this test are also negative, a person can resume their daily life.

Who is allowed to enter Estonia?

People who are allowed to enter Estonia:

  • All who hold Estonian citizenship, have a residence permit or a right of residence in Estonia, or a permanent residence in Estonia according to the population register, regardless of whether they have any signs of disease or not.

  • Citizens and residents of the European Union, the European Economic Area countries, the Swiss Confederation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland or the Principality of Andorra, the Principality of Monaco, the Republic of San Marino and the Vatican City State (the Holy See), as well as persons holding a long-stay visa who show no signs of disease and their family members who show no signs of disease.

  • All who arrive to the Republic of Estonia from the European Union or the Schengen Area countries or from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland if they show no signs of disease.

  • Persons who hold the citizenship, residence permit or right of residence of the Republic of Latvia or the Republic of Lithuania, or whose permanent residence according to the population register is in the Republic of Latvia or the Republic of Lithuania, and they show no signs of disease.

  • Persons who hold the citizenship, residence permit or right of residence of the Republic of Finland, or whose permanent residence according to the population register is in the Republic of Finland, and who show no signs of disease if:

    1. Their purpose of arrival in Estonia is to work or fulfil other contractual obligations
    2. They study at an educational institution registered in Estonia
    3. They arrive in Estonia for unavoidable family reasons, especially funerals, weddings, cases of illness and meeting close relatives
  • Foreign nationals from third countries who arrive in Estonia for work or study if they show no signs of disease.

Self-isolation is mandatory for everyone showing symptoms. Self-isolation for individuals without any symptoms depends on the country from which they departed or countries through which they transited. Information on countries and self-isolation requirements for people arriving in Estonia can be found on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If a person arrives from or transits through a country that is not listed on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or is listed with red, he or she must self-isolate.

From 1 September, those returning to Estonia from COVID-19 risk countries will have the opportunity to be tested for coronavirus at the airport and port in order to shorten the period of self-isolation and allow them to return to work sooner. People are required to self-isolate completely until they receive their test results. In the case of a negative test result, a person must stay in limited self-isolation for the first seven days, which means that he or she can go to work and, for example, a shop, but must avoid unnecessary contacts. A second test must be performed no earlier than 7 days after the results of the first test, and if the results of this test are also negative, a person can resume their daily life.

Who is required to self-isolate when entering the country?

Self-isolation is mandatory for everyone showing symptoms.

Self-isolation for individuals without any symptoms depends on the country from which they departed or countries through which they transited. Information on countries and self-isolation requirements for people arriving in Estonia can be found on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If a person arrives from or transits through a country that is not listed on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or is listed with red, he or she must self-isolate.

From 1 September, those returning to Estonia from COVID-19 risk countries will have the opportunity to be tested for coronavirus at the airport and port in order to shorten the period of self-isolation and allow them to return to work sooner. People are required to self-isolate completely until they receive their test results. In the case of a negative test result, a person must stay in limited self-isolation for the first seven days, which means that he or she can go to work and, for example, a shop, but must avoid unnecessary contacts. A second test must be performed no earlier than 7 days after the results of the first test, and if the results of this test are also negative, a person can resume their daily life.

Can students who have come from abroad go to school?

Anyone coming from a foreign country where the infection rate is 16 or more must usually spend two weeks in self-isolation. The educational institution should be informed of the need for self-isolation and it should be agreed that distance learning will be followed. Educational institutions have the right to require students coming from countries with an elevated infection risk to follow distance learning.

Coronavirus tests at the border and the repeat test seven days later to reduce the length of self-isolation are intended to help people return to work more quickly. Students may also be tested at the border, but a negative result in the first test does not give the right to return to the educational institution immediately. If the result of a second test taken at least seven days after the first is also negative, this is considered equivalent to the two-week period of self-isolation.

People who can reduce their period of self-isolation by taking a test are:

  • People who have Estonian citizenship, an Estonian residence permit or the right to reside in Estonia, and people whose permanent residence is listed as being in Estonia in the population register;
  • Citizens of European Union countries and countries on the joint European Union list.

The reduction in self-isolation granted by testing does not apply to people who have come to work or study from a country that is not on the European Union's joint list of third countries. Citizens of those countries must still spend two weeks observing the restrictions on freedom of movement and abide by any other requirements set For students or workers.

For more on testing see the website of the Health Board.

Up-to-date information on countries and on restrictions on movement for those arriving in Estonia can be found on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs https://vm.ee/en/information-countries-and-self-isolation-requirements-passengers.

Where can I have my child tested for coronavirus on their return from a risky country?

People arriving in Estonia from a country at risk from covid-19 from 1 September can shorten their obligation to remain in isolation and return to work by being tested for coronavirus in the airport and sea port. The test is free to residents of Estonia, foreigners can pay on the spot by card.

Those arriving on foot in the A and D terminals of the Port of Tallinn can do the test with the help of a medic from Confido, and those arriving at Tallinn airport can go to the testing point run by Qvalitas with an application. The application can be filled in on the spot. It takes about five minutes to fill in the form and take the test and the tests will be carried out on a first-come-first-served basis at the port and airport. The testing points are open until the last passenger by boat or plane has arrived.

Travellers arriving from an at-risk country at any other sea port or airport or by train or other overland transport, can take a test by booking a time with the SYNLAB and Medicum testing centres by calling 678 0000. Priority in testing will be given to those with symptoms of illness, after which the wait will be of one or two days. If you know when you will be arriving in Estonia, it is recommended that you book the test in advance.

Tests can be carried out in public testing points in Estonia in Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu, Narva, Kohtla-Järve, Viljandi, Paide, Rakvere, Kuressaare and Kärdla.

Foreigners can reduce their period of self-isolation by paying for a corona test. To book a time they should call one of the service providers.

What rules do educational institutions need to follow in organising their work?

The school year is starting as normally as possible. The government decided on 18 August to remove restrictions on educational institutions and to replace them from the new school year with the recommendations issued jointly by the Ministry of Education and Research and the Health Board. This decision applies to general education schools, professional and high schools, institutions for further learning, hobby schools, public youth centres, youth camps, educational camps, and training for car drivers and heavy vehicle drivers. The decision removes from these places of education the requirement for rooms to be filled to a maximum 50% capacity.

The management of each educational institution needs to consider how best to minimise the risks of the spread of the coronavirus while providing contact classes for as long as possible for pupils in the 1st to 6th year and pupils who need support.

The key points to remember are:

  • Wash hands regularly and keep good hand hygiene
  • Anyone who is ill or has come into contact with covid-19 must stay at home
  • It is critically important to reduce contact in schools by having separate classrooms for each class, holding classes outside, using some distance learning where necessary, and organising break times carefully
  • Events should be organised in dispersed fashion with smaller groups, and international events and foreign trips should be postponed
  • Protective equipment is very important and personal protective equipment should be supplied by the management of the institution where needed.

Protective measures and equipment are intended to avoid educational institutions going over to full distance learning. Work will be reorganised first at the level of groups or classes, then buildings, institutions or regions, in response to the specific case and the spread of the epidemic in the region.

If the risk of infection rises, educational institution should be ready to move over to distance learning. It is important to maintain and develop the capacity for distance learning throughout the academic year. It should be remembered that there will probably constantly be some pupils and teachers who have to spend some time in self-isolation and study and learn at a distance.

Can schools and other educational institutions organise trips abroad?

In the context of the spread of the coronavirus, it is recommended to cancel international events and trips abroad. Both the risk of infection and possible physical travel restrictions must be taken into account.

If, despite the risks, a trip is organised, it must be borne in mind that after arriving from a country with an infection rate of 16 or higher, students must remain in self-isolation for two weeks.

Do children need to be left at kindergartens or nurseries outside the building of the kindergarten?

There is no obligation to do this.

It is most important that children, parents and staff who show signs of illness should not enter kindergartens or other childcare institutions.

How the work of kindergartens and nurseries is organised is decided by the management, and the head of the kindergarten works with local authorities to find the best solution for minimising risks.

Can school trips, graduation ceremonies or other gatherings take place ?

Schools can hold ceremonies, excursions and other events, but should consider whether they are really necessary and should consider the possible risks. It is recommended that events are dispersed and held in smaller groups. The importance of washing hands must be remembered and anyone who is ill must stay at home.

School trips and excursions should be organised for classes or groups separately. It is very important when organising any event that everyone in the contact group should be informed of any case of illness.

It is recommended that trips abroad and international events be postponed.

It is not prohibited to invite guests to events, but we recommend considering very carefully how this can be done safely where necessary.

As of 18 August 2020 the requirement not to exceed 50% of the capacity of internal rooms and the restrictions on the number of participants no longer applies in schools, secondary schools, vocational schools or tertiary institutions, nor in other education institutions, hobby groups, public youth centres, youth camps or educational camps. The restrictions do not apply to hobby activities or informal education either.

The requirements placed by the government are replaced by the recommendations on preventing the spread of the virus, issued jointly by the Ministry of Education and Research and the Health Board. The recommendations can be found at https://www.hm.ee/sites/default/files/htm_koolialgusepakett_a4_2020-2021_viimane.pdf

 

Military service

 

How has the work of the medical boards of the Defence Resources Agency been organised?

Call-up selectees are invited to the medical board at a fixed time and one by one. Personal protective equipment is guaranteed for all and the surfaces are cleaned after every selectee's appointment.

Before the medical board you should definitely open you e-health data in the Patient Portal digilugu.ee and insert your account number and, if you wish, your religious affiliation, to the military service web page www.kaitsevaeteenistus.ee

What happens if a military conscript or an active serviceman is infected with the coronavirus or is exposed to an infected person?

If a conscript gets infected, they will be in isolation until the end of the treatment.

Conscripts and active servicemen who might have been exposed to people infected with the coronavirus will be excluded from active training activities for two weeks. At that time, food will be provided for them from the canteen with a thermos, and left behind the door. Empty thermoses will be disinfected. It is possible to contact the conscripts and servicemen who have been excluded from active training or who do not have the permission to leave the base by their mobile phones. They can receive packages, if the package is sent by post, or left for them at the base entrance.

How can I send a package to someone doing their national service?

Packages can be sent to national servicemen and women in the first and second infantry brigades through Omniva. It is requested not to bring packages in person. The name and the unit or battalion of the national serviceman or woman should be marked on the package. Please do not send perishable goods, as the delivery of packages may take some time. Packages should be sent to:

  • Kuperjanov Infantry Battalion: Kose tee 3a, Võru, 65603, Võru maakond
  • Tapa military base: Loode 35, 45106 Tapa, Lääne-Viru maakond
  • Paldiski military base: Rae põik 1, 76806 Paldiski, Harju maakond
  • Jõhvi military base: Pargi 55, 41537 Jõhvi, Ida-Viru maakond

 

Restrictions of movement

 

How do restriction on movement, self-isolation and quarantine differ from each other?

Upon crossing the state border, a 14 day restriction on movement still applies to persons who have arrived from countries where the infection rate is higher than 16 per 100,000 persons. During the 14 calendar days after arriving in Estonia the person may leave their place of residence or permanent place of stay at the order of a health care worker or a police officer, or in a case of an emergency endangering the life or health of the person, or in order to obtain food, staple goods or medicines.

If the state border is crossed by a person from a third country in order to work or study then, in addition to the 14 day restriction on movement, the inviter or the employer must immediately organise an initial testing for the person and a repeat testing no sooner than after 14 days have passed. In the case of restriction on movement, a person does not receive a sickness benefit unless he becomes symptomatic.

At a decision of a doctor, a person with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis must stay in self-isolation to which the same requirements apply as have been stated in the Order of the Government of the Republic no 257 regarding quarantine. On the basis of both, a person can only leave self-isolation in exceptional cases (an emergency, an order of the police, transportation to a hospital if their health situation worsens etc.). A close contact of a person with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis must stay in self-isolation to which the same requirements apply as have been stated in the Order of the Government of the Republic no 257 regarding quarantine. In the case of a close contact of a person infected with COVIC-19, it is not considered to be a violation of the requirement to remain in self-isolation, i.e. at home, if a person temporarily leaves their place of stay in order to obtain what is urgently necessary to get by daily, if obtaining these things is not possible in any other way. Urgently necessary means mainly food and medicines. In that case the person must take all measures to limit the possible spread of the virus, including using a face mask or gloves, or disinfecting hands, keeping a distance with other people and choosing a time of day for leaving home when the chance of coming into contact with other people is the smallest. Persons in self-isolation are entitled to a sickness benefit.

In the case of quarantine, a person is not allowed to leave their place of residence or permanent place of stay. It can be enacted by the Government of the Republic with an order or the Health Board with an administrative act if there is a risk that a particularly dangerous or a new dangerous infectious disease spreads outside the center of infection (NETS § 27). Persons in quarantine are entitled to a sickness benefit.

 

Symptoms, suspected infection and monitoring health

 

I was at the same event as a person who has tested positive for the coronavirus, how should I act?

If you were in close contact with a person who has COVID-19, you should notify the Health Board of this by calling +372 794 3500. From there you will be referred to the specialist in charge of establishing close contacts in your region who will ask some specifying questions from you and will register the close contact.

More specific guidelines for a close contact can be found here: https://www.terviseamet.ee/sites/default/files/Nakkushaigused/Juhendid/COVID-19/17.09.2020_-_juhis_covid-19_haige_lahikontaktsele_eng.pdf

If I live with a person who has fever and cough, but who has not been tested, should I stay home for 14 days? Can I get the incapacity to work certificate from the doctor on medical grounds?

Monitor your health and consult your employer as to whether it is possible to work remotely. Keep away from other people while complying with all the hygiene rules.

If you have no health complaints, and you have not been in contact with an infected person, your doctor has no reason to give you sick leave.

However, exposure to an infected person is treated equally as disease. Your doctor can give you

  • medical incapacity certificate if you have been in contact with a person diagnosed with the coronavirus,
  • care leave if your child has been in contact with a person diagnosed with the coronavirus.

As of May 18th you can no longer use the opportunity available during the emergency period to use digilugu.ee website to apply for the medical incapacity to work certificate.

NB! The medical leave or care leave certificate can be issued by your doctor only if your employer has officially registered your employment and you have a valid health insurance.

Do I have to stay home for 14 days if I came into contact with a person who had a fever and was coughing while at work?

You have to stay at home if you came into contact with an infected person or you are symptomatic (you have a cough, trouble breathing or a fever).

If your colleague gets symptoms that indicate an acute respiratory infection, including the coronavirus, he has to go home immediately and contact his family doctor who organizes his testing for the coronavirus, should it be necessary.

If your colleague's corona test results were positive, the employer has to establish his immediate contacts. If you are among these, you have to stay home for 14 days and monitor your health. As contact with an infected person is considered equivalent to getting infected, the doctor can issue you a certificate for sick leave.

How can I avoid contracting the coronavirus and what should I do if I suspect I might be infected?

To avoid catching the coronavirus:

  • Wash your hands with soap under running water, use alcohol-based hand disinfectant, if necessary.

  • Avoid contact. Keep a distance of at least two metres from people who are coughing or sneezing. If you stand too close to a person with symptoms of the disease, you may contract the disease yourself. 

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. If you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with contaminated hands, it is possible that the virus will be transmitted to you as well. 

If you suspect you might be infected:

  • If you have mild symptoms of a respiratory disease, follow the usual hand hygiene guidelines carefully and stay at home until you have recovered.

  • Monitor your health. If you have a fever, cough or breathing difficulties, seek help early. Call your family doctor or the GP hotline at 1220.

To stop the spread of microbes and the virus:

  • If you sneeze or cough, cover your nose and mouth with a single use tissue. Throw it into the bin immediately after, and then clean your hands. If you do not have a tissue, use your sleeve (the inside of your elbow), but do not use your bare hand.  
  • Covering your mouth and nose helps prevent spreading the virus. If you sneeze into a bare hand, you might transfer the contamination and viruses to others as well as to objects that you touch.  

How can I protect my employees from the infection?

  • Monitor the health of your staff.

  • Send home employees with symptoms for 14 days.

  • Any member of staff who has come into contact with an infected person must monitor their own health, and if symptoms appear, they should remain at home for 14 days and follow the self-isolation guidelines.

  • Montor cleanliness and the correct use of personal protective equipment.

  • Arrange for your staff a possibility to wash their hands at least once every two hours (with soap and water for at least 20 seconds). If it is not possible to wash hands, they should disinfect their hands with antiseptic handwash with a minimum 70% ethanol content. Hands that are visibly dirty must certainly be washed.

  • Recommend that staff who come into contact with customers wear rubber gloves as well as textile gloves. Hands should be disinfected before gloves are put on and after they are taken off.

Please note! Single-use gloves should not be washed or disinfected. They should be removed when leaving the cash register: pinch the material of the other glove from the section of the glove between the palm and the wrist; pull the glove off so that it turns inside out (with the contaminated side inside). Then the gloves should be disposed into a bag which can be sealed.

  • When wearing protective masks, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maximum usage time.

  • Single-use masked can only be used once. Washing can damage the material of the mask and reduce the effectiveness of the mask.

  • Work garments, (including textile gloves) should be washed after every shift, at the highest temperature allowed for the material. Work footwear should also be cleaned after every shift.

Adjust the work arrangements.

  • The employees have to maintain at least a 2-metre distance with the customers.

  • Minimise contact with the customers for these members of the staff who belong to risk groups, (particularly older employees or those with chronic illnesses or immune-compromised) persons.

  • If possible, arrange work in single shift, or organise the handing over of the shift so that the employees of different shifts would not come into contact with each other.

Guidelines and instructions:

Print-out materials and guidelines of the Health Board

Recommendations of the Veterinary and Food Board to food business operator

Recommendations of the Labour Inspectorate to employees and employers

What does this virus do to an organism – does it damage specific organs, for example, lungs?

COVID-19 symptoms are nonspecific and their severity can vary. The disease can run its course without symptoms of illness, but infection can also include severe pneumonia, and for people in risk groups, in worst case, the illness can end in death.

For most people infected with the coronavirus, the illness runs its course without complications and they get well. It is important to point out that the virus risk group includes the elderly and people with chronic diseases, who exhibit the severe forms of the disease more frequently.

What to do when I notice symptoms?

  • Discuss it with your family doctor. She will give recommendations to you, depending on the severity of the situation. If your GP cannot be reached or is unavailable, you can call the GP hotline at 1220.
  • You do not have to call an ambulance anymore to give a corona virus sample. Do not go to the medical centre or the ER on your own.
  • Rest up and heal yourself according to the doctor’s recommendations.
  • Stay inside until the doctor says that the risk of infection is gone and follow all the rules for avoiding the risk of infection at home.

Infected people in a serious condition should call the ambulance.

More exact instructions at https://www.koroonaviirus.ee.

Can the likelihood and risk of contracting COVID-19 be assessed online in Estonia?

Yes, as of 19 March, you can use the self-assessment environment Koroonatest.ee. By answering some simple questions, the tool will help you assess your risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus. By responding to the survey, the user of the environment will receive further recommendations on how to act in his/her situation.

The web-based solution was born on 13-15 March at a hackathon organised by Garage48 and Accelerate Estonia, which aimed to develop solutions that help to mitigate the situation created by the spread of coronavirus. One of the solutions was the development of an online assessment questionnaire, created by the startup Montonio Finance, which now cooperates with the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Health Board to run the environment.

If my colleague tested positive for the corona virus, am I now also sick and what should I do?

If your colleague tested positive for the corona virus, you are also recommended to stay at home for 14 days to monitor your health.

When is it safe to return to the society after the symptoms of the disease have passed?

A person is infectious up to 14 days after the first symptoms of the disease have appeared.

In order to declare someone recovered the person has to be at least two days fever-free, and at least one day without respiratory symptoms (cough and throat pain). Decisions regarding the health status, and return to the society will be made by the family physician.

How should an employee of a large industry, such as a factory, behave around a conveyor belt if he/she exhibits symptoms (cough, sore throat, etc.)? Who to contact and what to do?

If a factory worker exhibits symptoms (cough, breathing difficulties or fever) that may indicate an acute respiratory infection, including coronavirus, he/she should stay at home immediately and contact their general practitioner who will arrange for testing if necessary.

Other members of the workforce should monitor their health and, if symptoms occur, stay at home and contact their general practitioner. In order to protect themselves and others, all members of the workforce should follow hygiene requirements and wash their hands frequently.

 

HOIA mobile app

 

How are data leaks from the HOIA application avoided?

The first and most important step to limiting data leaks is bringing the amount of data gathered to a minimum. The data that the application gathers cannot be tied to a person. The information on infected persons, which is necessary for confirming an infection, is kept in the Health Information System as it has been done for more than ten years already. No new database is created for the application, thus no new data leak risks are created either. The server of the application that gets the anonymous codes of the infected persons is in the Estonian Government Cloud where it is protected from attacks. Even if somebody did manage to access the server, they would only see a pile of anonymous codes that in themselves do not carry any information. The application has been created on the principle of data distribution, as a result of which the data exchanged through the application will create useful information only as a result of the cooperation between the different components of the application and this information is displayed only to you in your phone. For more information on how to better protect your phone from possible data leaks, read here.

When and how much Internet does the HOIA app use? What if I don't have a data plan? How much should I pay extra for using the app?

The app only needs Bluetooth for regular operation. You should connect your phone to the Internet at least once a day to check whether there have been any close contacts. During this check, a small amount of information is downloaded, which should not exceed 200 kB. Therefore, the app uses the Internet only a little, and the mobile Internet is not absolutely necessary – downloading the information needed for notifications also works over WiFi.

Why does the state spend taxpayers' money on solutions such as the HOIA app, which are virtually unknown?

HOIA has been created in cooperation between the state and Estonian companies. In doing so, the companies have contributed to the development of the app free of charge, as they believe in the value of this app in limiting the spread of infection and restoring normal life. Therefore, the state spends taxpayers’ money minimally, however, the state estimates that the app will benefit taxpayers, allowing citizens to react faster when there is a potential risk of infection.

Can the HOIA app access my data?

The app cannot access the information on your phone (contacts, location, etc.). If you confirm your infection through the app, the app will redirect you to the national Patient Portal, however, this portal will not return your health information to the app, but will only confirm the infection to the app server in a non-personalised manner.

What data does the HOIA app collect?

A short-term anonymous code is generated for each user of the app, and it changes regularly. When you are close enough to another user, your phones exchange each other’s anonymous codes. In addition to the code itself, the phone will save for how long it saw the code and how far the owner of the code could have been during this time (based on the strength of the Bluetooth signal). If you turn out to be infected, you will be able to upload your anonymous codes to the app server, where other users can download them to compare whether or not their phone has already seen your code. The app does not collect any other information about you or your close contacts.

On which smartphones can you use the HOIA app?

The app requires a phone based on the Android or iOS operating system. For HOIA to function best, you need to use the close contact notification interface provided by Google and Apple. Therefore, usability is limited to phones manufactured in the last 5 years. Therefore, all Android phones that support the Android 6.0 operating system and all Apple phones that support the iOS 13.5 operating system (from iPhone 6S) are compatible.

What if a person infected with the coronavirus does not have a smartphone to use the HOIA app?

For the time being, the HOIA app is only available for smartphone users. If an infected person does not have a smartphone, they are still able to notify their close contacts. To this end, the Health Board has set up a separate team of people who help the infected person to identify their close contacts during an interview and inform them.

I have received an exposure notification and have to self-isolate. Can I apply for sick leave?

Since people exposed to COVID-19 ("close contacts") have to self-isolate in order not to spread the disease, they are entitled to sick leave if they should require it. The right to sick leave applies to all exposed people, regardless of whether they have been detected by the app or by an employee of the Health Board. Every close contact seeking to apply for sick leave, must request it from their general practitioner. In order for a general practitioner to confirm that an exposure has taken place, he or she has to make an inquiry to the Health Board.

Therefore, if the app has detected your exposure, you should notify the Health Board by calling the number displayed in the app (+372 794 3500). Upon calling, you will be put through to an exposure notification specialist in your area, who will ask a few clarifying questions and then register your exposure. After that you may request sick leave from your general practitioner.

Does the HOIA app use a lot of battery power?

The HOIA app runs in the background on your phone and requires a Bluetooth connection to function. This also results in a slightly higher battery usage. For the Bluetooth connectivity, the app uses the official application interface developed by Google and Apple. This interface tries to minimise the battery drain resulting from the use of the app and maximise the device uptime.

What does it mean that notifications sent through the HOIA app arrive with a delay?

The receipt of notifications depends on when the app requests the codes of the infected and when were you exposed to the infected. If you came into contact with an infected person on the day their infection was confirmed, the system will disclose the code of the infected person to you on the following day. If you came into contact with an infected person before the day their infection was confirmed, the system will disclose the code of the infected person to you as soon as your app requests the codes. Currently, Google and Apple application interfaces allow you to request codes twice a day.

Has a system similar to the HOIA app been introduced anywhere in the past? What were the experiences and lessons learned?

The close contact information apps are relatively new to the world, and the longest experience with them has been in Singapore, where the epidemic has been managed very successfully so far. The main lesson has been that the development of such apps requires close cooperation with the companies that set up phone operating systems, in order to avoid typical problems with the app performance. Therefore, the Estonian app has been integrated with the application interface developed by Google and Apple, ensuring smoother operation of the app and the lowest possible battery consumption.

A notification from the HOIA app appeared on my phone screen but I accidentally closed it and I am no longer able to find the information.

Based on your phone model and its operating system you get weekly informative notifications, which include summarised information on the number of infections. In Apple IOS it is possible to switch the notifications on or off by selecting Settings - Notifications - COVID-19 Exposure Notifications - Allow Notifications. For Android you have to choose Settings - Google - COVID-19 exposure notifications and toggle the on-off button for activation or deactivation. These notifications are visible on the notification panel only until you click on them or swipe them left or right.

The HOIA app sends notifications to the notification panel with the following information: "New message. Open the app to read the message." Once you click on the notification it opens the HOIA app. In the case of a close contact, the main screen displays the relevant information together with a suggestion to self-isolate for a certain period of time: "You have been in contact with 1 COVID-19 carrier. To stop the spread of the virus, stay at home until xx.xx.xx." This information is visible in the app for the next 10 days. If you delete your data from the app, the possible close contact information will also disappear. If you swipe the HOIA notification off from the notification panel, you can still see the close contact information in the HOIA app.

How reliable is the HOIA app information?

The main function of the app is to inform and guide you if you may have been in close contact with a person infected with COVID-19. Therefore, the app uses three types of information: information on close contact, information on infection, and information on code of conduct.

  1. A close contact is defined as having been in contact with an infected person for at least 15 minutes during the day and at a distance of less than 2 metres from each other. The phones automatically collect information about close contacts via Bluetooth radio signals, and the interpretation of the signal into a distance is based on extensive international research carried out by Google and Apple, among others, that have developed your phone’s operating system.
  2. Infection of people is confirmed against an external source of evidence, namely the Health Board and the Health Information System in Estonia. This means that no user can declare themselves to be infected, unless they are genuinely ill. If the phone notifies you of a close contact with an infected person, you can be certain that the person who sent the notification is in fact infected.
  3. If you turn out to be a close contact, the code of conduct displayed to you has been approved by the Health Board. In addition, you will see the Health Board’s telephone number, which you can call to ask for more information.

If I use the HOIA app, will the state then monitor my actions? Does the protection of public health outweigh the right to privacy?

The use of the HOIA app does not require you to waive your right to privacy. The app can be used in such a way that no other user is aware of your infection or exposure. No government authority will be able to monitor any users through the app. If the app detects that you have been in close contact with an infected person, you can contact the Health Board to report it, but the Health Board will not collect this information through the app. If you turn out to be the infected one, this information will reach the Health Board via laboratories and general practitioners, not via the app.

Why does the Android version of the HOIA app use location services?

As Bluetooth is technically a part of Android's locations services, they're required for the app to function. We assure you that the HOIA app will never collect any information about your location.

How will the infected persons remain anonymous to other users? If I find out that I was exposed to an infected person yesterday, can I not indirectly identify who the infected person was?

HOIA will send out a notification, if you have been in close contact with an infected person. This notification will not tell you who the infected person was, where and for how long you were in contact with them, or when you were in contact with them. Therefore, it is not possible to identify the infected person on the basis of the notification.

Do I have to carry my phone with me all the time when using the HOIA app?

The HOIA app functions through private communication between phones. If you are heading somewhere and may come into contact with other people, it would be really beneficial to carry a phone with the app to get the best result. You should also make sure that your phone has Bluetooth turned on.

Does the HOIA app have any age restrictions?

No. Anyone can use the HOIA app, including those under 13 years of age. As the app does not process personal data, the use of the app does not require separate parental consent for those under the age of 13. However, parents will always be able to check which apps can be downloaded to their children’s phones. Due to legal constraints, it is not possible for children under the age of 13 to confirm their infection on their own in the app, but they can still use it to receive notifications about close contacts. In future releases, we will provide a way for confirming the disease of children under the age of 13.

The person who monitors close contacts at the Health Board called me and said that I had been in close contact, but I have not received any notifications via the app. Does this mean there was no close contact and I am not infectious?

No, it does not. It is possible that the person you were in close contact with did not use the app and, therefore, your phone did not detect the close contact. If the other person used the app, it can still not be established with certainty that there was no risk of infection just because the notification was not received. The infection also spreads through contact surfaces, and the app cannot detect such spread. However, it is possible to monitor such close contacts manually. Therefore, if you work in the same place as the infected person, but you have not come into contact with them personally, you may still be infected, even though there was no close contact with the person and the app did not send you any notifications.

Can I become subject to a movement restriction if I was in close contact with a virus carrier according to the HOIA app?

If HOIA detects that you have been in close contact with a virus carrier, it will advise you to self-isolate and monitor your health for 14 days. Such caution is essential to limit the spread of the virus. You will also be offered a phone number to call for more information. The app does not allow anyone other than you to establish that you have been in close contact with a virus carrier, therefore, nobody can impose a movement restriction on you. Restricting movement is a personal concern for each app user and cannot be controlled by any other person or authority.

Will anyone who receives a notification from the HOIA app that they have been in close contact with a coronavirus carrier also be eligible for testing?

Close contacts notified via the app will be treated in the same way as those identified by the Health Board during an interview with an infected person. According to the current guidelines, this means that if you develop symptoms, you will be able to get tested with your general practitioner's referral.

I received a notification that I have been in close contact with an infected person and should stay at home for 14 days. I have been at home for a week – do I really have to stay at home for another 14 days?

If you have already self-isolated by the time you receive the notification and you are sure that you have not been in contact with anyone during the isolation period in a way that could have transmitted the infection, start counting your 14-day period from the day you self-isolated. If you self-isolated 7 days ago and you received the notification today, you have to stay at home for another 7 days.

What is the HOIA mobile app?

HOIA is a mobile app that contributes to limiting the spread of the COVID-19 virus with the help of the app users. The purpose of the app is to inform the close contacts of those infected with the coronavirus and, therefore, to provide them with initial instructions on how to proceed. In this way, the users can quickly find out about a possible close contact with a person infected with COVID-19, allowing them to take steps to protect their own health and the health of others.

How does the HOIA app work?

Phones that use the app register Bluetooth signals from other nearby phones. If a signal is sufficiently close and long enough, an anonymous code referring to a close contact will be saved in their phone. If a person confirms their infection in the HOIA app, the anonymous codes on their device will be uploaded to a central server where all users can download them. It is not possible to identify a person based on an anonymous code. A user’s phone will compare whether the infected person’s anonymous code matches a code previously saved on their phone. If so, the user is considered to be a close contact and they will be notified with instructions. It will not be revealed to the user who the infected person was with whom they came into contact, or any other information that would allow the indirect identification of the infected person.

Why should I use the HOIA app?

We all hope that the worst days of the COVID-19 epidemic are now behind us. However, we must not lose vigilance. The pandemic is not over, and if the movement of people increases both within Estonia and internationally, there is still a risk that the disease will spread again. This does not mean that we should put our everyday life on hold until scientists find a cure or vaccine against the coronavirus. The HOIA app is designed to allow us to be one step ahead when the next wave of the virus hits. The earlier the chain of transmission is broken, the fewer people become infected and the easier it is to get rid of the virus. Informing the close contacts of an infected person as soon as possible is an important tool in limiting human-to-human transmission, and HOIA does just that. Now that the situation is calmer, it is the best time to get to know this important tool and practice using it with our loved ones.

How does the HOIA app help to protect me against the virus?

Viruses such as COVID-19 can spread before symptoms develop and, therefore, an infected person may unknowingly spread the disease. This means that by the time the symptoms appear, the virus may already have been transmitted to others, so it is not enough for symptomatic people to stay at home to stop the virus from spreading. By using the HOIA app, an infected person can quickly inform all people with whom they have been in close contact during the infectious period. In this way, app users can find out about a possible infection early on and take steps to protect their own health and that of others. Therefore, by using the app, you will contribute to reducing the number of infections in Estonia, regardless of whether you are infected or a close contact.

Why should I need the HOIA app, if the Health Board is already working on informing close contacts?

It is true that the Health Board has a team tasked with calling everyone infected with the coronavirus, finding out with whom they were in close contact and in turn informing those close contacts about a possible infection. This work is essential to limit the transmission of infection, but has some natural disadvantages. Not every infected person may be able to remember all the people they were in close contact with: some people tend to forget and some cannot easily identify them. For example, most people are unaware of who they had sat next to on a bus. Therefore, HOIA provides an important added value to the work of the Health Board, as it can also identify those close contacts that the infected person does not know or remember.

How many users must the app have to be beneficial?

Some studies have shown that by using only the app, it could be possible to control the epidemic if 60% of the population use the app. In practice, it is not necessary to reach such a large number of users, as the app serves merely as one of several means in our toolbox to limit the spread of this virus. It is a simple and safe means of protection that will make all other measures more effective. It also depends on who the users are – people who move around a lot, come into contact with people potentially affected by the virus and meet more people in general on a day-to-day basis, should definitely use the app. As on average one person transfers COVID-19 to two other persons, it will not take long for one infected person to spread the disease to many others. Therefore, every user counts: if we manage to break at least one chain of infection thanks to the use of this app, we will avoid the wider spread of the virus.

Is it mandatory to use the HOIA app?

The use of the HOIA app is purely voluntary. We do not wish to oblige anyone, but to give everyone the opportunity to help to limit the spread of the virus in Estonia.

How to change the language of the app?

The app is available in three languages: Estonian, English and Russian. In the iOS app, you can change the language inside the app. For Android apps, the first version of the app is always in the same language as your phone. The app will be in Estonian, if your phone is set to Estonian. The app will be in English, if your phone is set to English, etc. For newer Android devices, you can change the language by going to "Settings" -> "General management" -> "Language and input". You can get a more detailed instruction from the manufacturer of your phone. Future versions of the Android app shall support changing the language inside the app.

During what period will the app be in use? Will it only be used for the coronavirus?

The app will only used to control the coronavirus epidemic in Estonia. We need to be prepared that the epidemic has more than one wave in Estonia, so the app may also be in active use for more than one period. Initially, we cannot say whether HOIA could be suitable for limiting the spread of another viral disease, but we are open to this possibility.

 

Compensation for sick days

 

Who has the right to go on sick leave?

Doctors can issue the sick note (confirmation of incapacity to work) to people who have medical insurance through their employer. The doctor decides whether or not to issue such a certificate based on the state of the person’s health.

Based on the sick note the employer and the Health Insurance Fund will pay compensation for incapacity to work, aimed at partial compensation for loss of earnings while the person is sick.

The doctor fills in the electronic sick note specifying the period how long the person will be on sick leave, and sends it electronically to the Health Insurance Fund. The data sent by the doctor and information on compensation paid out can be found under the personal sickness compensation service in the state portal www.eesti.ee.

For more see: https://www.haigekassa.ee/en/people/benefits/benefits-incapacity-work

I have received an exposure notification and have to self-isolate. Can I apply for sick leave?

Since people exposed to COVID-19 ("close contacts") have to self-isolate in order not to spread the disease, they are entitled to sick leave if they should require it. The right to sick leave applies to all exposed people, regardless of whether they have been detected by the app or by an employee of the Health Board. Every close contact seeking to apply for sick leave, must request it from their general practitioner. In order for a general practitioner to confirm that an exposure has taken place, he or she has to make an inquiry to the Health Board.

Therefore, if the app has detected your exposure, you should notify the Health Board by calling the number displayed in the app (+372 794 3500). Upon calling, you will be put through to an exposure notification specialist in your area, who will ask a few clarifying questions and then register your exposure. After that you may request sick leave from your general practitioner.

Can a doctor issue a sick leave certificate for me even though I am not sick?

If you are healthy, and you have not been in contact with infected persons, the doctor has no cause to issue a sick leave certificate. Monitor your health, if possible, work remotely from home, and limit contacts with other people.

Sick leave certificate can be issued by a doctor if you have come into contact with an infected person. If a child has been in contact with an infected person, the doctor can issue a care leave certificate for the parents. Being in contact with an infected person is considered equal to being sick or caring for a sick child. In this case, you will be paid incapacity compensation based on the usual system. Please note that the incapacity to work certificate can be issued by the doctor only if your employer has officially registered your employment and you have valid health insurance.

At what rate and for which days of sick leave will an employee be compensated? What kind of benefits are available for care leave?

Sickness benefit:

No compensation is paid for the first three days of sick leave.

For sickness days 4 to 8, you will be compensated by your employer, and starting from sickness day 9 it will be done by the Estonian Health Insurance Fund. These benefits will be calculated based on your average wage of the last month. You will get a benefit of 70% of your average wage.

Income tax is withheld from the benefit.

Read more about the sickness benefit.

Care allowance:

On the basis of the certificate for care leave, the Estonian Health Insurance Fund pays the care allowance for the first

  • 14 sickness days to a parent whose child under the age of 12 or disabled child under the age of 19 is sick;
  • 7 sickness days to the carer of other family members.

The allowance is 80% of the average wage of the person who has been issued the certificate for care leave. Income tax is withheld from the benefit.

Different rules for paying care allowance apply in the case of severe illness such as tumours.

Read more about care allowance.

More information can be received from the Estonian Health Insurance Fund telephone (+372) 669 6630.

During the emergency situation, people were given the opportunity to apply for incapacity to work certificate on medical grounds or for care leave via the patient portal www.digilugu.ee website. After the emergency situation was ended on May 18, the medical leave certificate can be only issued by the doctor, so if you are sick or are caring for a sick family member, you must contact your family doctor in order to obtain the sick leave or care leave.

 

Certificates for care leave

 

Who has the right to a certificate for care leave?

Care allowance is a temporary incapacity benefit. It is paid by the Health Insurance Fund to insured people, meaning an employee, a civil servant, person receiving a fee under a contract of obligations, a member of the management board or other managing body of a legal person, or a self-employed person or their spouse participating in their enterprise, who loses taxable income subject to social tax because they are caring for a sick child or family member.

Care allowance is granted to a person:

  • caring for a child under 12 or a person under 19 with disabilities for up to 14 consecutive days;
  • caring for a child under 12 for up to 60 consecutive days if the illness is caused by a malignant tumour and the child has started treatment in hospital;
  • caring for a member of their family at home for up to seven consecutive days;
  • caring for a child under three or a child under 16 with disabilities if the carer of the child is sick themselves or is on maternity leave. In these cases the care allowance may be for up to 10 consecutive days.

A doctor may also issue a certificate for care leave for longer period, but the care allowance is only paid for limited duration.

For further information: https://www.haigekassa.ee/en/node/7/care-allowance

 

Libraries

 

What restrictions apply to libraries?

The requirement for scattered seating and keeping safe distance must be followed in internal rooms in libraries. If possible, separate doorways for entering and exiting the library should be used, to avoid crowding.

Doors should be kept open if possible, so that it is not necessary to use the door handle.

Libraries should ensure there are places where visitors can disinfect and wash their hands.

More information on how libraries should organise their work can be found from the website of the Ministry of Culture.

 

Short-term employment of foreign nationals in Estonia

 

Can you re-register the short-term employment of a foreign national legally staying in Estonia whose short-term employment period has expired?

This can be done if:

  1. The foreign national is staying in Estonia legally,
  2. His or her maximum duration of short-term employment has not been reached, and
  3. His or her employer wishes to do so.

Short-term employment is permitted for up to 365 days within 455 consecutive days and, in the case of seasonal work, 270 days within 365 consecutive days.

If I have a valid D-visa and my employer terminates my employment, will my visa be revoked immediately?

No. You shall be given reasonable time to find a new job and update your documentation.

I am an employer in the agricultural sector. Can I register an employee if they previously worked in another sector?

Yes, it is possible.

Can the employer extend to employment of a foreign national if the maximum employment period is over?

No, it is not possible. As before the emergency situation, the employer cannot extend the employment of a foreign national when the maximum employment period is over.

Where can the employer submit applications for short-term employment registration?

Applications can be submitted with the Police and Border Guard Board on the Internet: https://etaotlus.poliitsei.ee/ltr/

Under which conditions can foreigners work in Estonia?

A foreign national legally residing in Estonia may work here under the same conditions as before the emergency situation. If they have not used up their maximum short-term employment period, they may continue working in Estonia if their employer would like to continue with the employment, the employer will register the foreign national for short-term employment with the Police and Border Guard Board. If the visa of the foreign national is expiring, a new visa application must also be submitted.

How long is it possible to extend the short-term working permit of foreign nationals working in the sector of agriculture?

The short-term employment permit of foreign nationals who were already in Estonia and were starting work in the agricultural sector or were already working in the agricultural sector, was allowed to be extended until July 31, 2020.

What is the duration of short-term employment for a foreign national in Estonia?

Pursuant to the Aliens Act, a foreign national legally staying in Estonia is allowed to work here for up to 12 months within the period of 15 months, or 9 months within the period of 12 months in the case of seasonal work. This presupposes that the employer wishes to recruit the foreign national and registers his or her short-term employment with the Police and Border Guard Board.

How is the need for foreign labour solved in agriculture where seasonal farm work cannot be postponed?

Foreign nationals outside Estonia

Currently third-country nationals who not in Estonia and wish to work in Estonia cannot come to Estonia yet.

If it is possible to remove the restrictions for cross-border movement, then the former procedure will be restored, according to which foreign nationals who can stay in Estonia with a visa or under a visa-free regime, have the opportunity to register their short-term employment in Estonia and their employer can use foreign labour up to 12 months during a 15 month period.

Foreign nationals residing in Estonia

Foreign nationals who are already legally staying in Estonia may work here under the same conditions as before the emergency situation.

If they have not used up the maximum short-term employment period they may continue working in Estonia if their employer, who registers their short-term employment at the Police and Border Guard Board, wants to continue with the employment relationship. When registering a new short-term employment period, the employer must make sure that the foreign national has a sufficient number of days of legal stay left (to provide a legal basis) for the foreign national to work during that period.

As before the emergency situation, the employer cannot extend the employment of the foreign national if the maximum employment period has been exhausted.

Agricultural sector forms an exception. The short-term employment permit for foreign nationals who are working in the sector or who will start working in the agricultural sector may be extended until July 31, 2020. The employer's economic activity must be

  • plant and animal husbandry,
  • hunting or
  • providing services to these sectors (EMTAK a 01).

Under the Aliens Act, a foreign national legally staying in Estonia may work here:

  • up to 12 months over a 15-month period,
  • in the case of seasonal work up to 9 months over a 12- month period.

The precondition is that the employer is willing to employ the foreign national and will register their short-term employment at the Police and Border Guard Board.

Opportunities for finding workforce

The Estonian Unemployment Fund is ready to facilitate connecting the job seekers and employers in Estonia: job offers can be published at web-portal: www.tootukassa.ee , and for finding temporary employment we advise to use the virtual employment fair: toomess.ee/ajutinetookoht (https://www.onlineexpo.com/ee/ajutised-tookohad/).

For advice and assistance, you can contact an employment consultant of your county. Their contacts are available at the website of the Estonian Unemployment Fund.

What happens to those foreign nationals who are staying in Estonia legally but who are unemployed?

Foreign nationals who no longer have employment in Estonia, we recommend returning to their home country as soon as possible. Return is recommended border crossings and transport permitting.

As of June 1, it is possible for unemployed foreigners who have had short-term employment in Estonia, to use the job placement services of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, if they have the right to continue with short-term employment in Estonia if employment has been found for them. Previously, the employee had to be still employed by their previous employer in order to receive the services of the Unemployment Insurance Fund job placement services.

What happens if a person disregards the order and, at the end of the short-term employment period, the foreign national is working illegally (black market)?

Under the Aliens Act, a foreign national can be fined for violating the conditions of employment in Estonia for an amount up to 300 units, i.e. EUR 1200, or can be arrested. The employer's failure to comply with the conditions of employment of a foreign national in Estonia shall be penalised by a fine of up to EUR 32,000.

I am a foreign national working in Estonia. The employer informed me that they would no longer be able to pay me the Estonian average salary, although I am still working full-time. Is it legal and allowed?

In case your short-term employment as a foreign national has been registered or you have been issued a residence permit for employment for which the salary criterion applies, there is no legal basis for your employer to pay you less than the criterion sets out.

If you are still working full time, the employer shall be obliged to pay you the remuneration in accordance with the law. If the employer does not do so, they will break the law and you have the right to file a complaint to the Police and Border Guard Board by e-mail (to ppa[at]politsei[dot]ee).

For more information, please see the Aliens Act: https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/521072020002/consolide

 

General education, vocational education, higher education

 

What should students and teachers belonging to risk groups bear in mind?

Students and teachers belonging to risk groups are advised to pay special attention to preventive measures, including the use of personal protective equipment. It is the responsibility of the manager of the educational establishment to provide the personal protective equipment necessary for work.

As the threat of the virus increases, it must be borne in mind that, in order to spare at-risk students and teachers, they must be able to work in the safest possible conditions, which may also mean working remotely.

Can vocational education institutions run internships and work experience?

Internships and work experience organised by vocational education institutions cannot be replaced by independent work at home. If practical work experience can be organised, it should be done.

Work experience and practical work should be directed and feedback given in a safe environment.

If it is not possible to do practical work in a company because the company has ceased activities or temporarily reorganised its work, or for some other reason, the student cannot do their practical work experience. Discussions about ending the practical work or finding possible alternatives should involve all three parties, the company, the student and the school.

Who decides about closing educational institutions?

The Health Board and the management of the institution decide about closing any educational institution.

Closure generally means that classes will continue through distance learning. If a local spread of covid-19 has been discovered in the region of the educational institution, directions on how to act will be issued by the Health Board in accordance with the local circumstances of the epidemic. If it proves necessary to close the institution, this will probably be done in stages, starting with older pupils who can cope better with distance learning.

The Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act states that the Health Board decides on the danger of the spread of an epidemic illness. It also states that the managers of schools and child care institutions may temporarily close the institutions that they run, coordinating this with the Health Board.

On top of closing educational institutions temporarily, the Health Board also has the right to require disinfection or cleaning to be carried out and health tests to be carried out on people so that infectious diseases may be diagnosed. If the introduction of measures and restrictions has a significant social or economic impact, they are introduced by order of the government.

Can students who have come from abroad go to school?

Anyone coming from a foreign country where the infection rate is 16 or more must usually spend two weeks in self-isolation. The educational institution should be informed of the need for self-isolation and it should be agreed that distance learning will be followed. Educational institutions have the right to require students coming from countries with an elevated infection risk to follow distance learning.

Coronavirus tests at the border and the repeat test seven days later to reduce the length of self-isolation are intended to help people return to work more quickly. Students may also be tested at the border, but a negative result in the first test does not give the right to return to the educational institution immediately. If the result of a second test taken at least seven days after the first is also negative, this is considered equivalent to the two-week period of self-isolation.

People who can reduce their period of self-isolation by taking a test are:

  • People who have Estonian citizenship, an Estonian residence permit or the right to reside in Estonia, and people whose permanent residence is listed as being in Estonia in the population register;
  • Citizens of European Union countries and countries on the joint European Union list.

The reduction in self-isolation granted by testing does not apply to people who have come to work or study from a country that is not on the European Union's joint list of third countries. Citizens of those countries must still spend two weeks observing the restrictions on freedom of movement and abide by any other requirements set For students or workers.

For more on testing see the website of the Health Board.

Up-to-date information on countries and on restrictions on movement for those arriving in Estonia can be found on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs https://vm.ee/en/information-countries-and-self-isolation-requirements-passengers.

Do masks have to be worn in schools and other educational institutions?

It is not compulsory to wear protective masks. It is recommended that students and teachers in risk groups wear protective masks in schools.

The school organises the supply of personal protection equipment where needed, working with the school management. The local authorities supply personal protection equipment for youth centres in response to the needs of young people and staff in the centre.

What rules do educational institutions need to follow in organising their work?

The school year is starting as normally as possible. The government decided on 18 August to remove restrictions on educational institutions and to replace them from the new school year with the recommendations issued jointly by the Ministry of Education and Research and the Health Board. This decision applies to general education schools, professional and high schools, institutions for further learning, hobby schools, public youth centres, youth camps, educational camps, and training for car drivers and heavy vehicle drivers. The decision removes from these places of education the requirement for rooms to be filled to a maximum 50% capacity.

The management of each educational institution needs to consider how best to minimise the risks of the spread of the coronavirus while providing contact classes for as long as possible for pupils in the 1st to 6th year and pupils who need support.

The key points to remember are:

  • Wash hands regularly and keep good hand hygiene
  • Anyone who is ill or has come into contact with covid-19 must stay at home
  • It is critically important to reduce contact in schools by having separate classrooms for each class, holding classes outside, using some distance learning where necessary, and organising break times carefully
  • Events should be organised in dispersed fashion with smaller groups, and international events and foreign trips should be postponed
  • Protective equipment is very important and personal protective equipment should be supplied by the management of the institution where needed.

Protective measures and equipment are intended to avoid educational institutions going over to full distance learning. Work will be reorganised first at the level of groups or classes, then buildings, institutions or regions, in response to the specific case and the spread of the epidemic in the region.

If the risk of infection rises, educational institution should be ready to move over to distance learning. It is important to maintain and develop the capacity for distance learning throughout the academic year. It should be remembered that there will probably constantly be some pupils and teachers who have to spend some time in self-isolation and study and learn at a distance.

How should dispersion be organised in educational institutions?

Educational institutions are very strongly recommended to organise their learning and other activities in ways that reduce contact between people.

A system where classrooms are designated to classes rather than teachers can be used, holding more classes outside may be considered, and if necessary there could be a partial move to distance learning on certain days or for some subjects. It could for example be planned that older classes will use e-learning once a week.

We also recommend that lunch breaks, PE classes and similar are organised so that contact between groups is minimised.

The school day could start at different times in order to reduce physical contact between pupils, and different classes could have breaks at different times with some made longer so that younger pupils can go outside. Institutions that work in multiple buildings should consider how to reduce movement of pupils between the buildings.

If the risk of the virus increases and it becomes necessary to disperse pupils even more, we recommend that older classes move over to the full distance learning. Younger classes that continue contact teaching can then be dispersed more around the buildings. It is recommended that contact teaching is continued for as long as possible in the first and second levels of basic school and for pupils who need support.

Can schools and other educational institutions organise trips abroad?

In the context of the spread of the coronavirus, it is recommended to cancel international events and trips abroad. Both the risk of infection and possible physical travel restrictions must be taken into account.

If, despite the risks, a trip is organised, it must be borne in mind that after arriving from a country with an infection rate of 16 or higher, students must remain in self-isolation for two weeks.

Can a child go to school if their parent arrives from a trip?

The obligation to self-isolate does not apply to a person, whose immediate family members include those who have arrived from a country with a high infection rate, or who have come into contact with a person who has been in close contact with someone infected with COVID-19.

In other words, if, for instance, a family member arrives from a country with a high infection rate or has been in contact with a person infected with COVID-19, it does not mean that all members of their family should stay at home.

What happens if somebody falls ill during the school day?

The person who falls ill should inform the management of the institution. A pupil who falls ill should tell their teacher or the school nurse, who will inform the management. The parents of the pupil will be informed of their illness.

The person who is ill will be isolated from everyone else in an appropriate room. They will be given a surgical mask, and it is important to make sure that the mask is fitted correctly. If their illness evidently becomes worse, an emergency call should be made to 112.

To prevent the spread of covid-19, it is important that anyone who is ill, or the parent or guardian of a pupil who is ill, inform the educational institution if the diagnosis of covid-19 is confirmed. The institution will then inform members of the class or group and their parents. This must be handled delicately, without naming the pupil who is ill or giving out of the details that could identify them.

The regional branch of the Health Board will contact the educational institution and inform them of the confirmed diagnosis and identify the contacts of the person who is ill. The institution and the school nurse will help with this.

People who have been in contact with the infected person will remain at home for 14 days. Distance learning will be organised during this time. Those in isolation may not participate in hobby groups, or go to shopping centres or anywhere else.

The other pupils in the school will continue as normal, while monitoring their own health. If symptoms appear, they should contact their family doctor at once.

Can opening ceremonies for the school year take place? What are the rules?

Ceremonies can be held. Schools will need to find appropriate solutions for organising events and gatherings that take into account the need to minimise the risks of spreading the virus.

The key rules are:

  • stay at home if you feel ill
  • wash your hands
  • avoid unnecessary contact

As of 18 August 2020 the requirement not to exceed 50% of the capacity of internal rooms and the restrictions on the number of participants no longer applies in schools, secondary schools, vocational schools or tertiary institutions, nor in other educational institutions, hobby groups, public youth centres, youth camps or educational camps. The restrictions also do not apply to hobby activities or informal education either.

The requirements placed by the government are replaced by the recommendations on preventing the spread of the virus, issued jointly by the Ministry of Education and Research and the Health Board. The recommendations can be found at https://www.hm.ee/sites/default/files/htm_koolialgusepakett_a4_2020-2021_viimane.pdf

Can school trips, graduation ceremonies or other gatherings take place ?

Schools can hold ceremonies, excursions and other events, but should consider whether they are really necessary and should consider the possible risks. It is recommended that events are dispersed and held in smaller groups. The importance of washing hands must be remembered and anyone who is ill must stay at home.

School trips and excursions should be organised for classes or groups separately. It is very important when organising any event that everyone in the contact group should be informed of any case of illness.

It is recommended that trips abroad and international events be postponed.

It is not prohibited to invite guests to events, but we recommend considering very carefully how this can be done safely where necessary.

As of 18 August 2020 the requirement not to exceed 50% of the capacity of internal rooms and the restrictions on the number of participants no longer applies in schools, secondary schools, vocational schools or tertiary institutions, nor in other education institutions, hobby groups, public youth centres, youth camps or educational camps. The restrictions do not apply to hobby activities or informal education either.

The requirements placed by the government are replaced by the recommendations on preventing the spread of the virus, issued jointly by the Ministry of Education and Research and the Health Board. The recommendations can be found at https://www.hm.ee/sites/default/files/htm_koolialgusepakett_a4_2020-2021_viimane.pdf

Can a vocational school send their students abroad on a traineeship?

The Ministry of Education and Research advises against foreign travel. The risks are not only of the spread of the virus but also of restrictions on movement or travel. If the student has already left for their traineeship in a foreign country, then upon their return they will have to observe the rules for staying at home.

Is it allowed to stay overnight in a dormitory or student home?

It is allowed to stay in dormitories or student homes, but good hand washing and hygiene must be followed, close contact must be limited and all restrictions and safety recommendations must be followed.

Where can I find additional information or help on the subject of education?

If you have any questions for the Ministry of Education and Research, please contact info[at]hm[dot]ee.

From 18 August the information lines of the Ministry of Education and Research are again open on 5690 0353 and 5690 0340.

For an overview of the rules and guidelines sent to institutions under the Ministry of Education and Research, please see the website https://www.hm.ee/koroona.

 

Continuous education

 

Who provides personal protection equipment in further education institutions?

The education institution is not directly responsible for providing protective masks to all students and staff. An appropriate solution can be found by working with teachers.

It is important to follow the universal recommendations, including not attending classes when ill, ensuring that hands can be and are washed, airing rooms where necessary, cleaning surfaces, and dispersing study groups.

What rules need to be observed when providing adult education and continuous education or training?

The government removed restrictions on educational institutions from 18 August and replaced them from the start of the new school year with recommendations issued jointly by the Ministry of Health and the Health Board on preventing the spread of coronavirus. This decision applies to general education schools, professional and high schools, institutions for further learning, hobby schools, public youth centres, youth camps, educational camps, and training for car drivers and heavy vehicle drivers. The decision removes from these places of education the requirement for rooms to be filled to a maximum 50% capacity.

Providers of adult education and continuous education should also consider when planning their educational year how to minimise the risks from the spread of the coronavirus. Good hand hygiene must be a priority at all times and anyone showing signs of illness should remain at home. Activities should be dispersed as much as possible and contact between different learning groups should be reduced.

It is recommended that institutions remain ready to move over to distance learning throughout the educational year.

The recommendations on hygiene and cleaning of premises issued by the Health Board need to be observed.

 

Open and closed cultural establishments

 

What are the restrictions in cinemas, theatres and concerts?

Public events (performances. concerts, festivals, folk culture events, fairs, conferences etc.) are permitted but no more than 2000 visitors may attend events in the open air, or 750 at indoor events (where rooms must not be filled to more than 50% capacity).

The 50% capacity requirement indoors does not apply to theatre performances, concerts and cinema screenings, conferences or public meetings and events, as long as there are fixed seats available for the entire audience. The 50% capacity exception does not apply to events where temporary seating is used.

It is still obligatory for the visitors to keep a distance with other people at the events, and it is obligatory to the organizers to guarantee access to disinfectant and adherence to the disinfecting requirements.

 

Work of prisons

 

Registration for visits has been temporarily suspended in prisons

From 27 August, the registration of long-term and short-term visits in prisons has been temporarily suspended. The change does not concern the visits already scheduled for September. All registered visits shall take place as planned. The provisional decision mainly concerns the visits scheduled for October. Prisons are constantly monitoring the spread of the coronavirus and shall take decisions on the registration of visits on an ongoing basis.

You can ask for more information about the visits: Tallinn Prison 612 7539 Tartu Prison 750 0806 Viru Prison 663 7900

Restriction on visitation does not apply to the persons specified in section 26 of the Imprisonment Act, i.e. the prisoner's criminal defence counsel, representative who is an advocate, minister of religion, a consular officer of the prisoner's country of nationality and a notary for the performance of a notarial act.

No coronavirus has been detected among prisoners in Estonia.

 

Sports activities, open air facilities, training camps

 

What are the restrictions on sports training?

Training rooms and changing and showering facilities may be used up to 50% of the usual capacity.

When multiple groups are training at the same time, the use of the training facilities and movement within them should be organised to avoid different groups coming into contact with each other as much as possible.

Further details on organising sports activities indoors can be found on the website of the Ministry of Culture.

What restrictions are there on sports competitions?

Spectators are permitted at sports competitions held indoors and outdoors. Up to 750 people are permitted at competitions held indoors and venues can be filled to a maximum of 50% of capacity, and up to 2000 people are permitted at competitions held outdoors. More details can be found on the website of the Ministry of Culture.

 

Exams at general education schools

 

When will the additional state exams take place this autumn?

According to the initial plan, the additional state exams for the academic year of 2019/2020 will take place as follows:

  1. Estonian (written): October 10, 2020.
  2. Estonian as a second language integrated with B2 proficiency test (written): October 11, 2020.
  3. Estonian as a second language integrated with B2 proficiency test (oral): October 11 to 13, 2020.
  4. English as foreign language B1/B2 (written): September 26, 2020,
  5. English as foreign language B1/B2 (oral): September 26 to October 2, 2020,
  6. Mathematics (written): October 17, 2020.

These dates are listed in the draft Regulation sent for the approval to ministries, heads of schools and teachers' associations, and may be subject to change.

Additional information: innove[at]innove[dot]ee

When is it possible to register for the additional state examinations of the upper secondary school?

Registration for the additional state exams has now closed.

Registration for the additional state exams was open from 6 June to 17 July 2020 for all students graduating from school in the academic year 2019/2020 and for those who graduated from schools or vocational schools in earlier years.

Additional information: innove[at]innove[dot]ee

Is it possible to graduate without exams?

The lower secondary school state examinations did not take place for this academic year but the test of Estonian as a second language was arranged for students wishing to sit it. In order to graduate the lower secondary school, the average report card grade must be at least ´pass´ or ´sufficient´. Creative subject is not a national condition for graduating from the lower secondary school. The school board will make a decision whether passing this subject is possible or not. If due to the emergency situation it was not possible to complete the course on creative works, then the student graduating from the lower secondary school does not have to do it.

Upper secondary school state examinations were not compulsory meaning upper secondary school graduation is possible without sitting for state exams. Graduating classes who had registered for tests this year could sit for Estonian language, or Estonian as a second language test, mathematics test or an internationally recognised foreign language test.

The state examinations took place at the end of May and early June, and the results were published on 30 June.

During the first half of the next academic year supplementary state examinations will be organised. These are for the students who could not take their exams in the spring, or who are not satisfied with the results.

 

Summer camps, trainings, hobby education, youth centres

 

How to arrange accommodation and catering in youth and student camps?

If possible, young people of different groups should be housed in separate buildings or rooms.

The usual requirements for food handling need to be followed for catering.

What rules need to be observed by hobby activities and informal education providers?

The organisation of work at youth institutions including public youth centres, hobby schools, hobby groups, youth camps and youth work camps is decided by the management of the institution, who reports to the local authorities in the municipality or town as the organiser of youth activities.

It is important to ensure that youth work services can continue and to support those providing them so that they can then provide support to the young people who need it most of all. The efforts of youth work institutions to prevent the spread of the virus follow the same principles as those of educational institutions and full closure of the institution will only be a last resort.

Those providing hobby activities and education must work with their managers to find ways of minimising the risks of the spread of the coronavirus. It is particularly important to observe all hygiene requirements, not to participate in activities when ill, and to reduce close contact. This means dispersing activities where possible and for example avoiding different groups coming into contact with one another.

If necessary work should be reorganised by buildings, institutions or regions, in response to local circumstances. If it is decided to close the rooms where youth work institutions operate, it is important that their activities can continue using smart youth work alternatives.

Support for activities is given by the Education and Youth Authority and strategic partners of the Ministry of Education and Research.

More detailed information about the organisation of educational work is available from informal education institutions and hobby schools.

As of 18 August 2020 the requirement not to exceed 50% of the capacity of internal rooms and the restrictions on the number of participants in hobby groups and informal education no longer apply. The requirements placed by the government have been replaced by the recommendations issued jointly by the Ministry of Education and Research and the Health Board, which can be found at https://www.hm.ee/sites/default/files/htm_koolialgusepakett_a4_2020-2021_viimane.pdf

 

Work of courts

 

What are the rules of procedure for courts after the end of the emergency situation?

The work of the courts is based on the principle that it would be safe to come to a courthouse.

Dispersion requirements apply in the courtroom, it is recommended to use personal protective equipment and all who have fallen ill must stay at home.

If a party to the proceedings is ill, they have to provide this information, and then the judge shall decide how to proceed.

 

Agriculture and rural life

 

What kind of support measures are available for the agricultural and fishing sector in the EU?

Common Agricultural Policy

A derogation has been granted, according to which advance payments for direct payments under the Common Agricultural Policy may be made to beneficiaries for up to 70% (the rule is up to 50%) in 2020 and advance payments for area and animal-based rural development support for up to 85% (the rule is up to 75%).

A derogation has also been granted for 2020, according to which advance payments of direct payments can be made after completion of the required administrative checks, but before completion of the on-the-spot checks Under the rules, the advance payments of direct payments can only be made after the administrative and on-the-spot checks have been completed. Advance payments for area and animal-based rural development support can be made after administrative checks have been completed, but before the on-the-spot checks have been completed, in accordance with the rules already in force.

The control provisions of the common agricultural policy support have been relaxed for 2020. For example, it is possible to replace the physical checks required for area-based payments, in particular on-the-spot checks, with a review of orthophotos or other relevant evidence; to make the required on-the-spot checks for animal-based payments at any time; to reduce the sampe size of annual on-the-spot checks for area-based payments (from at least 5% to 3%); replace the required control visits and on-the-spot checks for other rural development support (not area or animal-based) with appropriate evidence provided by the beneficiaries themselves (e.g. geo-tagged photos) and to reduce the control samples for annual on-the-spot checks and follow-up checks for non-area and animal-based rural development support (from at least 5% to at least 3% and from at least 1% to at least 0.6%, respectively).

Common Fisheries Policy

The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) can as of February 1 until the end of a year, as a temporary measure, provided the eligibility criteria have been met, compensate for losses caused by a reduction in sales revenues to aquaculture establishments and small-and medium sized enterprises engaged in fish processing, and for losses caused by a loss of income for professional fishing companies that have been engaged in fishing for at least 120 days in 2018 and 2019, in the event of temporary suspension of fishing activities.

In addition, it will be possible to compensate for producer organisations for the costs associated with the storage of fish in 2020 if the produce cannot be sold. Amendments to the EMFF Regulation also allow Member States to implement the EMFF budget in a more flexible manner.

If I get state support due to the reduction of employment or loss of employment in the emergency situation, can I do some seasonal agricultural work? If yes, will I still get my benefits?

If you get employment compensation from the Estonian Unemployment Fund because of reduced employment or reduced income, you can work at the same time for another employer, such as an agricultural business.

If you have lost your work and you have been registered as unemployed , and you receive unemployment insurance benefit or an unemployment benefit, then based on the rules currently in force, you cannot work at the same time.

Additional information, please contact tth[at]tuotukassa[dot]ee or 15501.

What kind of assistance is provided to farmers?

200 Million euros are allocated through the Estonian Rural Development Foundation to mitigate the economic impact on farmers:

  • loan guarantees to the agricultural and food sector and for loans already granted to farmers (a total budget of 50 million euros).
  • revolving business loan to companies operating in rural areas to overcome liquidity problems caused by the outbreak of coronavirus (total budget of 100 million euros).
  • land capital support for owners of agricultural land for sale-and-leaseback transactions to overcome liquidity problems caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus (a total budget of 50 million euros).

More information about the Estonian Rural Development Foundation can be found on their homepage.

The budget for support measures for the farmer's replacement service to cover a period of absence, is increased by 0.5 Million euros to ensure that producers will be replaced if the virus spreads. In addition to livestock farmers, also the crop sector is added.

 

Prevention measures, cleaning surfaces, disinfectants

 

Is it possible to reduce the potential risk associated with COVID-19 virus due to food eaten at home?

Yes. It is very important to wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and after entering the store, as it protects both you and others. You also need to wash your hands before you start making food and also after the food is made.

Store your foods properly (avoid any contact between foods consumed raw and food requiring heat treatment), discard the outer packaging before storage (for example, a paper packaging, if there is also a plastic inner packaging), while taking note of important information such as the best before date. Fruit and vegetables must be washed regularly with clean water, especially if they are not heat-treated (COVID-19 does not survive heat treatment).

Food contamination should be avoided through kitchen utensils (knives, plates, etc.), wash your dishes carefully before coming into contact with different food items.

The instructions for heat treatment (time, temperature) should be followed for foods that are to be eaten after heat treatment.

The refrigerator and kitchen area should be cleaned thoroughly and more often than usual.

What should the food processing companies bear in mind regarding the coronavirus?

In order to prevent the coronavirus:

  1. Avoid close contacts.
  2. Follow safe food management practices
  3. Clean and disinfect surfaces,
  4. Ensure proper hygiene and
  5. Comply with normal cleaning and ventilation requirements.

To protect your employees, monitor their health status.

  • If possible, recommend that employees keep at least 2 metres distance from each other.
  • Minimise the exposure of employees belonging to risk groups to other employees.
  • In case of risk of infection, clean and disinfect the company premises to prevent the spread of the disease among employees.

Create plenty of opportunities for employees to disinfect and wash their hands.

  • Hands should be washed with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds and at least every 2 hours.
  • Hands should be washed and sanitised before and after the use of rubber gloves.
  • Disinfectants must be in a visible place and easily accessible for the employees.

Wash the working clothes (including textile gloves) after each shift, if possible

  • Wash the clothes at the highest temperature allowed for the fabric.
  • Clean the footwear after each shift.
  • Use disposable working clothes, if possible.

More information can be found on the website of the Veterinary and Food Board. https://vet.agri.ee/et/ennetustoo/covid-19/juhised-toidukaitlejatele-seoses-koroonaviirusega/juhised-toidutootjatele-seoses

What should animal keepers know regarding the coronavirus?

After contact with animals, hands need to be washed with soap and water. Complying with elementary hygiene requirements also helps to protect from different regular bacteria, like E.coli and salmonella, that can transfer from animals to humans.

An employee of a meat processing company, a veterinary carrying out checks of animals and food in the market, a market employee and an employee working with live animals on a farm and processing animal products should, in addition to frequent hand washing, turn additional attention to the following:

  • Work clothing and gloves should be used when handling animals and fresh meat.
  • The equipment used and the work station should be regularly disinfected (at least once a day).
  • Protective clothing should be removed and washed at the end of work. It is recommended that the work clothes/protective clothes and other work equipment be kept at the place of work and washed on site.

More information on the web page of the Veterinary and Food Board.

Do I need to clean, and how should I clean goods and packages purchased from a store?

If you have bought berries, vegetables and fruit from the store, they must be washed properly with warm water. The use of soap or dishwasher liquid is not recommended. Plastic packaging can be washed with soap water or cleaned with a disinfectant, and paper containers can be disinfected.

Coronavirus transmits with human-to-human contacts as droplet infection, mainly through close contact with an infected person who has infection symptoms: in particular - fever, cough, and breathing difficulties. The virus remains active on contaminated surfaces for up to 72 hours. It is therefore important to prevent contamination and, if necessary, to clean and disinfect surfaces which might have been exposed to the virus.

According to research, coronavirus cannot be transmitted with food. Coronaviruses need a host body, an animal or a human to survive and multiply.

What kind of settings should be used for operating a building´s ventilation system currently?

In non-residential premises and social welfare institutions, the ventilation system must not be switched off even if the building is not in use.

The ventilation system must also operate at evenings and weekends at with either design capacity or normal daily regime (100%) or reduced capacity (at least 40%). The ventilation system operating with reduced capacity must be switched to the design capacity regime at least two hours before the building or part of the building will be used.

Circulating air ventilation systems are in use in storehouses and shopping centres. They must be fully switched onto the external air injection to avoid possible virus circulation through the ventilation system.

In other ventilation systems, the air injection and extraction settings must be reviewed so that the system sends the air exhaust out without recirculating it.

If the building does not have an air conditioning and ventilation system that guarantees suitable indoor climate, the rooms must be actively aired. This should be done at least once an hour and within 15 minutes before people arrive.

Room capacity-based circulating cooling or heating device (for example: fan-coil, split device) need to be switched off unless it is necessary to ensure a certain temperature in the room or when the device cannot be switched off.

In this case, continuous air flow through the device must be ensured. If the fan coil (heating device with a ventilator) is operational, the settings must be changed so that the fan would not turn off. This way the virus does not accumulate in the filter.

Should apartment associations disinfect surfaces in common use, like handrails of the hall staircases and elevator buttons?

The Health Board recommends disinfecting the door handles, handrails, elevator buttons etc. of apartment buildings at least once a day. Viruses are destroyed by a disinfectant that contains at least 70% ethanol.

Hallways have to be cleaned with water and water-absorbent cloth because cleaning dust with a dry brush will not get rid of the virus. When cleaning it is important to use disposable gloves and easy-to-clean working clothes and footwear in order to protect yourself from chemical cleaning agents and contamination on surfaces.

If possible, the apartment associations could provide hand-sanitisers near entrances and lifts. You should, however, definitely remember to wash your hands thoroughly after coming home. You can find more recommendations from the guidelines of the Health Board (in Estonian).

Would airing the rooms help to prevent the transmission of the infection?

Coronavirus is transmitted as droplet infection. Based on current information, we cannot dismiss the possibility of coronavirus transmission though aerosolization as airborne fine particles.

Airing the rooms to reduce the transmission is important.

When should I wash my hands?

You should wash your hands:

  • before starting work;
  • before handling hot or cooked food;
  • after handling or cooking hot food;
  • after handling waste;
  • after cleaning up;
  • after using the toilet;
  • after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing;
  • after eating, drinking or smoking;
  • after handling cash.

How can service providers protect their employees and customers?

Employees must follow the usual measures for the prevention of respiratory infections:

  • When sneezing or coughing cover the mouth and nose with a tissue or sneeze/ cough into your sleeve. The tissue should be thrown into a bin.

  • Clean hands with soap and water or a hand-sanitizer containing alcohol (especially after sneezing or coughing). In businesses, disinfectants must be available for both customers and employees.

  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Disease can spread through unwashed hands.

How do we prevent the spread of COVID-19 in shops?

  • Avoid meeting in shopping centres.
  • If possible record a message and play it over your public announcement systems telling people to keep a distance of at least 2 metres from each other, including in queues for the tills, and to touch things as little as possible in shops.
  • Clean self-service points and tills, and shopping trolleys and baskets, weighing scales and so on more frequently than you normally would. Clean self-service points and tills with touch-screens every time they are used if possible.
  • If you can offer online shopping, encourage people to use it.
  • Organise your tills so that your clients can keep at least 2 metres apart from each other and from the client service staff.

How do prevent the spread of the coronavirus in shopping centres, stores, and catering establishments?

In stores and catering establishments it is recommended to:

  • avoid physical contact when handing over receipts and cash;
  • sell ready-made foods (e.g. pastries, sausages, candy, cookies, nuts or salad) only pre-packaged and, if possible, also pre-package the loose ready-made food sold at self-service deli counters. Ready-made food must be packaged in a separate room or 2 metres away from where customers are moving around. Single use packaging (e.g. coffee cups) cannot be freely available to customers;
  • follow the regular food-handling rules and ensure that all employees that handle the food have passed the training on food-handling;
  • not organize product presentations, including food tastings;
  • clean and disinfect more often than usual all the surfaces that are frequently touched and come into contact with food;
  • ensure that all persons who are providing services on site (e.g. people who are installing or repairing equipment) have the possibility to wash and disinfect their hands;
  • clean and air the premises according to the regular schedule. The use of cleaning products and the cleaning schedule have to be based on the user instructions of the cleaning product;
  • store the waste (including personal protective equipment) that might be contaminated with the virus separately from other waste and keep it in a closed bag. In 72 hours it can be thrown in the municipal waste container.

See the instructions.

Can 80% vodka be used in a spray bottle for disinfecting hands?

No. In addition to alcohol there are other components that make the disinfectant effective, either slowing down the evaporation of the product from the surface or improving the surface wetting properties. This achieves the one minute contact time necessary for the antiviral effect. Ethanol alone might not kill the bacteria or the virus because it evaporates too quickly. Using ethanol as a disinfectant might reduce the activeness of the infectious agent but might also create an ethanol-resistant infection agent as a result. In sum it can be said that unregistered and non-verified disinfectants might not have actual disinfecting properties and thus might not protect their user.

To prevent the spread of disease it has been recommended to also air office spaces. How to clean the air when the office has general ventilation and the windows cannot be opened?

If it is not possible to air the rooms, surfaces should be regularly cleaned with disinfectant. The corona virus does not spread through the ventilation system but mainly by a close contact with a person suspected to be infected who has symptoms characteristic to the disease, mainly a cough.

The precondition to the spread of the virus is close contact with the bodily fluids (blood, excrements, urine, spit, sperm) of an infected person. When a person infected with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or speaks, droplets containing the virus end up in the air. These virus droplets are quite heavy and therefore do not travel very far in the air. According to what we have learned thus far they can travel 2 meters at the maximum. Because of their heaviness it is also not probable that air flow would make the droplets travel further from surfaces.

The life span of virus droplets on surfaces depends on the air temperature and average humidity of the surrounding environment. At room temperature, or 22-25 degrees and 40% relative humidity, the virus survives up to 4 or 5 days. The higher the temperature and relative humidity, the faster the virus is destroyed.

An effective way to destroy the corona virus from surfaces is using different biocides or antimicrobial solutions. One of the most common ones is ethanol. A solution containing 70% ethanol is adequate for cleaning surfaces of COVID-19 contamination.

 

Consumer rights and business owners’ rights – travelling, events, gift cards, tickets etc

 

Can a food operator ask for guarantees from suppliers regarding virus?

No. A certificate that is supposed to confirm the virus-free status of the product is not justified, as there is no evidence that foods could endanger human health due to the virus. Any requirements to ensure such a certificate are therefore disproportionate and therefore not acceptable.

Can companies that have been closed because of the emergency situation demand that the state compensate for their damages?

The general principle is that the state compensates for unlawful damages, for lawful damages as an exception only if the unfairness to a company is obvious. In an emergency situation, the public and private sectors have a solidary liability. This means that the private sector tolerates legal restrictions that have been imposed on it for the good of the society and to protect the life and health of a big proportion of the population. To understand what preconditions need to be met for the damages to be compensated and by what time the entrepreneur should act, read more on the web page.

My flight was cancelled, what are my rights?

If the airline cancels the flight, the passenger has the right to a refund (if the flight departed from the EU or a third country, but the flight was operated by an EU carrier). In addition, the passenger is entitled to the assistance and support of the airline, such as providing food or accommodation if the person was not allowed to board the flight and is waiting for the first available replacement flight. It should be taken into account that the offering of a substitution route as soon as possible may not be objectively possible for the airline at the moment.

If a passenger chooses the refund of the ticket or another flight at a later date, then the airline is no longer obliged to provide food or accommodation.

We ask passengers to take into account that, at the moment, airlines face delays in responding to requests and claims. We ask the passengers for their understanding and patience! Further information on the rights of air passengers in the current situation can also be found in the overview published by the European Commission.

My flight and accommodation have been booked separately but I do not wish to travel. What can I do?

Please contact the agent who sold the tickets and accommodation

Another option is to contact the airline or the accommodation provider directly.

You should check whether you can cancel the booking and get a refund.

Please take into account that, due to the current situation, the response of the businesses may be delayed, so customers are asked for their patience and understanding.

Will travel insurance cover the costs caused by the coronavirus?

The terms of the travel insurance depend on the details of the contract, such as which regions you are travelling to, for how long, and whether you have travel interruption insurance. If you have travel insurance you should contact the insurer to find out more exactly what is covered by the insurance and under what conditions.

Does travel insurance even apply in a situation, where the World Health Organisation has declared a global pandemic due to the spread of the coronavirus?

When it comes to travel insurance, it is by nature a voluntary type of insurance. When a contract is signed, the insurer and the insured agree to the conditions (insurance events) for when the insurer has the obligation to perform, i.e. compensate the damages. That is why the insured is not entitled to compensation for any kinds of damages, but just the damages that the two sides have agreed to ahead of time. The insurer’s terms state, which cases are insurance events for the insurers and which are not. In addition, the insurance terms and conditions usually also list exceptions for situations, where an insurance event has happened, but it is caused by an exception stipulated in the conditions, and then the incurred damage is not subject to compensation.

The Estonian Association of Insurance Undertakings (Eesti Kindlustusseltside Liit) has developed good practices for travel insurance, and according to this document, insurers generally do not compensate damages caused by a pandemic/epidemic or by the activities of authorities. Here it does not matter whether the travel insurance was bought before the pandemic was declared or after. Whether your insurer compensates the damages that have incurred depends on that specific insurer. For example, some insurers have notified clients that they will compensate treatment costs, additional accommodation and transport costs related to being quarantined, etc.

If I am travelling abroad and I have travel insurance, which is still in effect, will my insurer also cover expenses related to the coronavirus outbreak?

This depends on your specific insurer and the terms of your contract. In general, however, insurers do not compensate costs if a person is already travelling in an area, where a quarantine is put into effect, causing the person to not be able to come home on time and incurring extra expenses for that traveller.

I got sick during a trip, will insurance cover my treatment costs?

In order for an insurer to cover costs related to an unexpected illness, you have to have entered into a medical insurance agreement ahead of time. Generally, when you purchase travel insurance, it is a mandatory part of even entering into contract with them, meaning that without medical insurance you usually can’t even get travel insurance.

Insurance companies do cover treatment costs for any viral infections based on the medical insurance, since those kinds of illnesses are always unexpected, and in this context falling ill due to the coronavirus is also considered an insurance event. According to the medical insurance, costs related to treating the coronavirus illness are covered only as long as there is an epidemic declared in that area.

If a person decides to travel to an epidemic area and contracts the coronavirus disease, then the related treatment costs are no longer covered by medical insurance, because this case is considered to be one, where a person knowingly endangers themselves.

The tour operator has not cancelled my package tour, but I do not want to travel. What should I do?

Many tour operators have cancelled scheduled package travel in the near future. Circumstances change, and trips planned in a few months’ time or after half a year may take place. Therefore, it is not necessary to rush with cancellation of travel plan unless it is for immediate future. It is worth taking some time to calmly assess whether the cancellation is inevitable. If, however, the tour operator has not cancelled the trip planned for near future, it is good to know that the passenger has the right to terminate the package travel contract before the start of the package tour without paying the termination fee, if there are unavoidable and exceptional circumstances affecting the destination or its immediate vicinity which might impact the service provision or transportation of passengers.

Unavoidable and exceptional circumstances may include, for example, military activities, other serious security problems such as terrorism, significant risks to human health, such as the outbreak of a severe disease at the travel destination, or natural disasters such as flooding, earthquakes, or weather conditions that make it impossible to travel to the destination safely in the manner provided for in the package travel contract. The contract withdrawal application must be submitted to the tour operator before the start of the package tour. We encourage passengers to consider agreeing to flexible options of refund with travel operators. For example, reimbursement of advances may be replaced by a change of the trip to a later date or may be replaced by package travel gift cards that the passenger may use at his own discretion later.

An event is cancelled because of the coronavirus. What will happen to the ticket money?

Consumers can withdraw from the contract and ask for a full refund. By agreement, the refund may be replaced by alternative events at a later date, or by the possibility of visiting another event which the consumer can enter with the previously purchased ticket, or the cost can be reimbursed by means of a gift card.

I want to cancel an advance deposit I have already made for a booking at a children’s play centre. What will happen to that deposit?

You have the right to cancel your booking if the play centre has not done so already and to get your money back from the deposit. You can also agree to change the booking to a later date or take a giftcard or voucher instead of the reimbursement of the deposit.

My child cannot attend a hobby class, but I am paying for it. Do I have the right to pay less?

Depends on the terms of a specific contract. For example, if you have agreed that during the contract period, the service provider will have to organise a certain number of training sessions or lessons, but you have not specified the exact dates, the solution may be that the service provider will provide the training sessions or lessons after the situation has normalised. However, if the agreement is such that a fixed number of training sessions or lessons must be provided every month, then the March-April-May training sessions or lessons may be postponed or the fee may be reduced by those training sessions or lessons that are not provided.

If a fee is charged for a service that can be offered in the form of distance learning, then a fee may be charged.

What do I do if a gift card or gift ticket expired during a time when it couldn’t be used due to the restrictions?

If a gift card or gift ticket expired while the service was unavailable due to the emergency situation, the consumer has the right to withdraw from the contract and receive the amount paid for the gift card or gift ticket. First, please contact the merchant, who issued the gift card. It is worth checking the merchant’s website, as many merchants have already posted the necessary information.

Can a trader refuse to refund a gift card if they have offered the customer alternative ways of using the gift card?

If the trader offers an alternative use of the gift card, the consumer is not entitled to withdraw from the contract and to get a refund for the purchase of the card.

For example, if a person cannot use the gift card in a cinema but can use it at the trader's e-shop, then the customer is not entitled to withdraw from the contract (i.e. to demand refund).

Can services also be used later with the same gift card (even if it is expired)?

It is a matter of agreement with the issuer of the gift card, many merchants offer that opportunity themselves. We recommend turning to the merchant that issued the gift card. In case of disputes, the consumer has recourse and access to legal remedies (demand performance of obligations, demand compensation for damages, etc.). These agreements should definitely be entered into in writing.

What should I do if I ordered a service, for example, event organisation, but I now want to withdraw from the agreement?

First, we recommend contacting the service provider. If the consumer has already paid an advance to the service provider and then wants to cancel the service, the service provider has the right to deduct the cost of services already rendered from the advance payment, but must return the rest of the sum to the consumer. However, if the consumer has not made an advance payment, yet wants to cancel the service, the service provider has the right to demand a reasonable compensation from the consumer for expenses already incurred. The burden of proving whether and which costs the service provider has already incurred is on the service provider.

Do I have to make the monthly payments on my loan and/or lease while I am on mandatory, unpaid leave?

Yes, you do. In consumer credit contracts, force majeure is not an impediment to fulfilling your financial obligations. If there are foreseeable losses in income, you should definitely get in touch with the service provider as soon as possible. For example, some banks offer grace periods.

The deadline for submitting a complaint is approaching. What should I do?

We advise contacting the trader by e-mail. The complaint should include the consumer’s first and last name, when the goods were purchased, which unconformities were detected, and what is the consumer’s claim. In the letter sent to the trader, the consumer should also note that the goods will be returned to the trader as soon as possible, i.e. make sure that an arrangement has been reached between the parties.

Are the shops obligated to have their normal tills operating or can they operate only self-service checkouts because of the current situation?

It must always be possible for the customer to pay in cash. Shops generally have a member of staff on hand at their self-service checkouts to help clients and show how the self-service checkouts work.

 

Dental care

 

Are dentist receiving patients for planned treatments? What are the rules for dental care?

As of April 21, scheduled dental treatments are allowed again, many dental clinics have started making new appointments. The rules established due the emergency situation are still in force to prevent the spread of the infection.

When you arrive at the clinic, you must disinfect your hands, your temperature will be taken (using a contactless method), and you must also complete the COVID-19 health declaration.

If you have any signs of respiratory disease (cough, runny nose) and/or fever, you will not be able to go to the treatment.

Come to the appointment alone and on time, if possible. One person may accompany an underage patient or a person needing attendance. If you arrive earlier, you may be asked to wait outside the clinic, keeping the distance of at least 2-metres from other clients.

It is very important to use all the necessary precautions in the dental office, as the procedures result in continuous aerosol cloud covering all items within a radius of up to five metres. In such an environment, the risk of spreading infection is very high and the safety measures are stricter.

In case of acute dental pain, first consult your dentist, who can advise you by phone and, if necessary, prescribe medication or provide emergency treatment, if possible. You have the opportunity to contact the dental clinics who have a contract with the Estonian Health Insurance Fund for free emergency dental treatment - contacts can be found on the Health Insurance Fund webpage. Registration for appointments is necessary to ensure safety.

 

General practitioners’ work, prescriptions

 

How can a foreigner get health advice in English if they do not have a family doctor in Estonia?

The family doctor's consultation hotline 1220 (landline +372 6346 630) offers advice in case of ordinary health problems, instructions for first aid, and information on health care organisation in Estonian, English, and Russian. English language service is available every day from 3pm to 5pm.

Due to the current situation, when calling the hotline number 1220, the usual charge of 30 cents per minute is not added.

Where should a foreigner who does not have a family doctor in Estonia turn to for a corona test?

A foreigner staying in Estonia, as well as everyone else who does not have a family doctor needs to turn to the closest family medicine centre. The family doctor there will then decide whether a corona test is necessary or not.

Turning to a doctor with acute symptoms of any respiratory disease has been equated with emergency care and this is paid for by the Estonian Health Insurance Fund.

How is medical care guaranteed to people without health insurance?

During the emergency situation, treatment for the virus is considered emergency care to which uninsured persons are entitled during regular times as well (emergency room, ambulance). If an uninsured person suspects that she might be infected, she can contact the nearest family health centre by phone. From there, a person is sent to testing, if necessary, and is given instructions on how to act upon her health concerns. An invoice is presented to the Estonian Health Insurance Fund and the person does not have to pay the fee herself. You can find more info on how to get health insurance from here.

 

About the coronavirus and how it spreads

 

Can the virus spread from dead people as well?

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) there is no evidence that anybody has caught the infection from a dead person.

There still might be a certain risk of infection in coming into contact with the bodily fluids of a dead person who had the coronavirus. Therefore, it is better to avoid any kind of contact with a dead person who had given a positive coronavirus sample.

Can people contract coronavirus from their pets?

According to current knowledge, animals do not transmit infections to humans and therefore it is safe for animal keepers to care for them: feed them, treat them, etc. Thousands of pets have been tested around the world, and only in three cases the genetic residue of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus causing agent have been found in the samples taken from the pets of coronavirus patients. For none of the cases it can be confirmed that a disease in an animal was caused by coronavirus. Based on current knowledge, we can state that the virus residue found in the animal was caused by environmental contamination (the animal’s organism is like any other surface on which the virus deposits).

During the crisis it is also important to pay attention to animal welfare, and animals cannot be neglected.

Can coronavirus spread with food?

According to research, coronavirus cannot be transmitted with food, therefore it is not likely food would spread the virus. Coronaviruses need a host body, an animal or a human to survive and multiply.

How does COVID-19 differ from influenza?

In addition to the spread of the coronavirus, this is also the flu season. Therefore it is very important to be able to distinguish between coronavirus (COVID-19) and influenza. Although there are still very many unknown factors regarding COVID-19, two main aspects of the disease can be compared.

Symptoms The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have listed the main disease symptoms:

  • Flu - fever, cough, sore throat, muscle pain, headache, runny or blocked nose, fatigue, sometimes vomiting or diarrhoea.
  • Coronavirus – fever, cough, breathing difficulties.

The flu symptoms have a sudden onset. Most patients recover within less than two weeks. In some patients (e.g. in the USA during this season, 1% of patients) flu may cause serious complications, including pneumonia. The prevalence of flu is very similar every year.

COVID-19 symptoms have not been completely understood. It is also not yet known how serious these symptoms can be or how many people infected with COVID-19 virus have only very mild symptoms or none at all. Most cases of COVID-19 infection are not serious.

Virus spread Coronavirus is more infectious than influenza. Each person infected with the COVID-19 virus infects an average of 2.2 people. At the same time, every person infected with the influenza virus infects an average of 1.3 healthy people.

Morbidity In case of coronavirus or influenza infection, people aged over 60 with weakened immune system and/or chronic diseases are at the highest risk. Co-morbidity increases the disease risk. Influenza is much more dangerous for children, especially very young children who can fall severely ill. Children infected with coronavirus usually have mild symptoms or do not have any symptoms.

Influenza is particularly dangerous for pregnant women who can get severely ill. It is not known whether COVID-19 presents a serious risk to pregnant women.

Among COVID-19 patients, 83-98% develop fever, 76-82% dry cough and 11-44% fatigue or muscle pain. Less common COVID-19 symptoms are headache, throat pain, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 81% of COVID-19 cases were mild (including cases without symptoms), 14% moderate-to-severe and 5% critical. In critical cases, patients experienced respiratory failure, septic shock and multiple organ dysfunction or failure. There are indications that during the second week of the disease the condition may deteriorate and therefore people must closely monitor their condition and remain at home throughout the duration of the disease.

Mortality COVID-19 mortality varies from region to region and depends on age and other factors. According to the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the death rate in Hubei province of COVID-19 was 2.9%, in other Chinese provinces 0.4%. The most vulnerable were the elderly, the mortality rate among over 80s was 15%, aged 70-79 8%, aged 60-69 4%, aged 50-59 1%, aged 40-49 0.4%, aged 10-39 0.2%, and no deaths were observed among children younger than 9. Although COVID-19 mortality is not exactly known, most studies show that it is higher than the influenza mortality.

Treatment The mortality of influenza would be higher if there were no treatment and vaccination. For the treatment of influenza, there are several prescription medications that have a good impact if they are taken within one or two days of the onset of symptoms. There are also medicines that are given to prevent flu for people who have been in contact with the virus carrier. In addition, there are widely available vaccines against influenza that generate a certain level of immunity.

No specific treatment or any approved antiviral medicine (some are being tested) exists yet for COVID-19. Doctors can therefore recommend the usual measures: rest, take medicines to reduce pain and fever, and consume fluids to prevent dehydration. There is no vaccine against COVID-19 yet.

Prevention The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that you should wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds to prevent any flu-like viruses, including COVID-19, avoid contact with your face if hands are unwashed, avoid contacts with sick people, stay at home in the case of illness, and disinfect surfaces and objects you touch daily.

Seasonality In the case of influenza, a pattern is observed that the spread of the disease decreases in the spring and returns in the autumn when the weather gets colder. It is not known whether and how the weather affects the COVID-19 virus. Even if the spread of the COVID-19 virus declines in the spring, it may return in the autumn.

How serious is the disease COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus?

COVID-19 symptoms are non-specific and their severity can vary. The disease may not always produce symptoms, but it may also lead to severe pneumonia, which for those belonging to the risk groups in the worst case can also end in death.

The most common symptoms include :

  • fever (89,9%),
  • dry cough (67,7%),
  • fatigue (38.1%),
  • mucus (33,4%),
  • difficulty breathing (18,6%),
  • sore throat (13,9%),
  • headache (13,6%),
  • muscle and joint pain (14,8%),
  • cramps (11,4%),
  • nausea and vomiting (5.0%),
  • congested nose (4,8%),
  • diarrhea (3,7%),
  • coughing blood (0,9%),
  • irritated conjunctiva (0.8%).

 For most people who contract the coronavirus, the disease passes without complications and they get well.  

Reminder - the risk group for this virus includes the elderly as well as people with chronic disease, who often experience the more severe forms of the disease. 

Why do we need to take special care to protect elderly people and people with chronic diseases?

Coronavirus infection can be more severe in people over 60 years of age or in people with chronic conditions. Their body may be weaker due to a decline in the function of the immune system and the disease may turn out to be more severe if such a person is infected.

Examples of chronic diseases include diabetes, heart failure, high blood pressure, tumours, asthma and other chronic pulmonary diseases, chronic kidney and liver diseases, and immunodeficiency.

Coronavirus spreads from person to person via droplets, mainly in close contact with a sick person. Given the weaker immunity of the elderly and people with chronic conditions, and the main way in which the virus is spread, it is essential to avoid contact with these groups of people as much as possible.

Furthermore, it is not advisable to take your healthy children to their grandparents, because if the children should fall ill, the grandparents are at high risk.

Are pregnant women a corona virus risk group?

According to current knowledge, pregnant women do not have a greater risk of getting infected with the corona virus than others and when they do get infected they do not suffer more severely. There is also no proof that the virus would go from the mother to her child before or during birth. Pregnant women should follow the same instructions as others, both to avoid getting infected and if they do get infected.

Does the corona virus spread through ventilation systems?

The corona virus does not spread though the ventilation system of an apartment building. Most infections happen through close contact by way of droplet infection when the droplets land on another person’s mucous membrane, i.e. in the nose, mouth or eyes. Infection can also happen from surfaces contaminated with the droplets. For instance, you can get infected by touching a door handle and then your face.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), currently there is not enough reliable evidence that the infection can spread through ventilation systems.

According to Hans Orru, the Associate Professor in Environmental Health at the University of Tartu, the amount of virus particles inhaled is also important. In order to get the necessary amount, there must be a close contact with a sick person or one must be in a small closed room with a sick person. An amount that could carry through the ventilation systems from the neighbours is not enough in a normal situation.

It is still always important to guarantee adequate air exchange in rooms to reduce the amount of virus particles in the rooms of both sick and healthy people. For this we recommend:

  • To air your living spaces regularly
  • In public spaces, to guarantee a good round-the-clock air exchange that would not allow the virus particles and contaminants to accumulate.

The corona virus is capable of attaching itself to aerosols but their amount in air decreases relatively quickly. According to a study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, in three hours a sixth of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles remain.

Can I order postal packages from foreign countries or is this a way to get infected?

The novel corona virus COVID-19 does not spread with goods coming from foreign countries so it is safe to accept and open postal packages ordered from foreign countries without fear of getting infected.

 

Funerals, handling of bodies

 

Are there any special arrangements necessary when handling the body of a person who has died due to the coronavirus?

If the death has occurred due to the coronavirus, then the family members and the bereaved cannot touch the body. Both casket burial and cremation are allowed.

From the point of view of the infection control, cremation is preferable, but it is not compulsory and depends on the wishes of the family.

Open casket burial is allowed provided the bereaved will not come into contact with the body. It is the responsibility of the funeral organiser to ensure the safety of the funeral.

It is necessary to avoid gathering indoors and, if possible, to hold a funeral ceremony directly in the graveyard.

The Health Board has issued a guideline for handling the bodies of the persons infected with COVID-19 or suspected of COVID-19 infection in hospitals. Special measures concern the storage, cremation and preparation of the body for burial. Procedures requiring direct contact with the body should be minimised, if possible, and precautions should be taken, using special personal protective equipment. The Health Board has prepared appropriate [instructions] for hospitals. (https://www.terviseamet.ee/sites/default/files/Nakkushaigused/Juhendid/COVID-19/surnukeha_kasitlemise_pohimotted_haiglatele-27.03.2020_.pdf).

Can a funeral be arranged? What are the special requirements?

A funeral can be organised, but it is important to bear in mind:

  • Include only a small number of family and friends.
  • Act sensibly.

Additionally, it is recommended to avoid indoor events, the funeral ceremony should be held at the graveyard.

Foreign nationals can submit an application for an Estonian visa due to exceptional circumstances to:

  • Estonian representations.
  • Border crossing points (justified, if it was not possible to apply for a visa at an embassy).

 

Work of hospitals and clinics

 

How many hospital beds are available in Estonia for the treatment of coronavirus patients?

In Estonian hospitals, there are enough beds for the treatment of coronavirus patients.

163 beds are available in infectious disease wards in negative pressure rooms. A negative pressure room has a special ventilation system where the transport of pathogens from the room by air is prevented. These rooms are available in five hospitals: West-Tallinn Central Hospital Infectious Diseases Clinic (100), Pärnu Hospital (20), Narva Hospital (20), Ida-Viru Central Hospital (12) and Tartu University Clinic (11).

There are total of 191 intensive care beds In Estonia, if necessary, it is possible to increase their number to 500. Total number of beds in hospitals is 5,300. If necessary, additional active and intensive care beds can be established when using the capacity of the Estonian Defence Forces field hospital (20 intensive care beds, and 40 general beds).

There are about 300 ventilators available in hospitals. Estonia also participates in the joint procurement of the European Union, where it is possible to purchase both personal protective equipment and ventilators, if need arises.

What kind of benefits (if any) befall to the medical staff and their family in case an employee suffers health damage or dies in the line of duty?

The state does not provide for any specific compensation in these circumstances. Medical professionals work according to the Employment Contracts Act and earn benefits according to their work contract, so it depends on agreements between employer and employee.

 

Unemployment Insurance Fund services, support, benefits

 

How does the state intend to solve the problem of compensation for unemployed Members of the Management Board and for employees working based on the contracts under the Law of Obligations Act?

Indeed, the unemployment benefit is only available for persons:

  • Who have worked for at least 12 months over the last 36 month period.
  • Who have been employed under the Law of Obligations Act.
  • Who have currently lost their job.

A contract under the Law of Obligations Act may be, for example, and authorisation agreement or contract for services agreement.

The Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund does not compensate the employer for the remuneration of a person working under Law of Obligations Act.

If a person working under a Law of Obligations Act contract no longer has a job, they can:

  1. Register themselves as unemployed.
  2. Apply for unemployment insurance allowance or unemployment benefit

NB! Provisions should be made for situations when the work carried out under an authorisation agreement or under a contract for services agreement, corresponds to the characteristics of work performed under an employment contract. In this case, it may be possible, in agreement with the employer, to convert this kind of contract into an employment contract. Once an agreement has been reached, the employer and the employee must sign the employment contract in accordance with the provisions of the Employment Contracts Act and make appropriate changes to the Employment Register. The actual starting time of the employment relationship must be taken into account when converting the contract. Of course, in this case the taxes on labour have to be considered.

Where to find help for a person working under a contract for services whose work has currently stopped and who has no income?

If the work of a person working under a contract for services has stopped (the contract has not been terminated but there is no income), we recommend that he apply for a subsistence benefit from the local municipality.

However, if this person's contract for services has been terminated, this person has the right to apply for an unemployment benefit and an unemployment insurance benefit from the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund if he has

  1. worked at least 12 months out of the last 36 months
  2. with a contract under the law of obligations and
  3. lost his job now.

Where can I register as unemployed and apply for an unemployment insurance allowance or an unemployment benefit?

If you wish to register as unemployed and apply for an unemployment insurance allowance or for an unemployment benefit, we recommend submitting your application using our online services https://www.tootukassa.ee/. Applications will be accepted via e-mail (digitally signed), regular post, or telephone, and in the offices.

Applications for work ability assessment and work capability allowance can also be submitted at the website, e-mail (digitally signed), regular post, or in the offices of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund. If necessary, the Unemployment Insurance Fund will forward the application documentation by post.

Please note! If you submit your application by e-mail, sign it digitally.

For further information:

Whom should I turn to if my family is running out of money, because we don’t have work anymore and we don’t know anything about the support schemes?

If your family needs help, contact your local social welfare office.

 

Securing remote work

 

Is distance working really a safe choice?

If it is done correctly and knowingly, distance working is certainly safe. Even though the current emergency situation, where many people work from home, does increase the danger that companies and their employees fall victim to a cyber attack or cyber fraud, these risks can be brought down to a minimum by following elementary cyber hygiene requirements. In turn, by safely doing distance work you lower the risk of coronavirus infection for yourself as well as others.

 

Cyber threats

 

What are the most common current threats?

Because information regarding the coronavirus is understandably the focus people's of interests right now, the distributors of malware are using it as well -- all over the world letters are sent out with links or attachments that contain a document that seemingly might give the receiver new information about the spread of the virus. We are also aware that a map of the spread of the virus is being used as bait. These letters infect your computer with malware that could steal your passwords and other data.

The growing popularity of distance working is also being exploited. Working from home, people often need to join different central services, file sharing platforms or communication networks. If you receive a letter that calls on you to click on another link in order to join a work-related group, make sure that this really is a group or a service that you have arranged with your employer.

In the case of work e-mails, you have to remember that invoice fraud and CEO fraud schemes are quite common in cyber crime. If your boss (who is currently probably not with you) asks you to transfer money from the company's account to a completely unexpected bank account, confirm through some other prearranged channel of communication whether she is sure about that. If a business partner in another country asks you to send a payment for services to a new bank account, confirm this with him over the phone or some other channel of communication.

Recent times have seen a resurgence in the spread of payroll scams where an employer seemingly asks the head of personnel to transfer her wages to a new bank account as of next month. This request is actually being sent by cyber criminals who end up getting the money. In a payroll scam the cyber criminals send a short e-mail in quite convincing Estonian to the head of personnel under the name of an employee, asking that the wages be transferred to a new bank account as of next month. For this they use visual scams, replacing a letter in a name or barely noticeably altering the domain name (ettevõte.ee vs ettveõte.ee). They might also take advantage of insufficient security of the e-mail account and impersonate the e-mail address of an employee in a way that is difficult to distinguish for a layman.

At the beginning of the crisis, there was a spread of English-language phone calls asking access to the recipient's computer in Estonia. The calls came from foreign phone numbers and the caller introduced himself as a representative of an internationally well-known company. Referring to the current situation where many work in home offices and the need to keep the equipment used for distance work secure, the callers asked for access to the computer. The reason they gave was a wish to check that the device is secure enough. At refusal the caller did not end the call but steadfastly continued asking for access. The goal of the fraudsters might have been to steal passwords or bank card data. These kinds of calls might also be used to sell scareware products that seemingly find malware in the victim's computer. By paying the fraudsters you unfortunately really get rid of your money and only seemingly get rid of the so-called malware that wasn't in the computer in the first place.

 

Video and teleconferencing

 

What software should be used for video- or teleconferencing?

The main important thing is to come to an agreement with your colleagues and close ones on what channels of communication are used for the distance communication during the emergency situation. You children, for instance, have similar agreement with their teachers and friends on which channels they use. It is always good to find out more about these channels of communication, to establish which are not only easy to use but also safest from a message confidentiality point of view -- in case you have to share confidential business information with your business partners. Read through the terms and conditions! At the same time, keep an eye on what channels of communication are the safest for your child's health and welfare.

As distance working will continue both in Estonia and the rest of the world for quite a while longer, there will probably also be campaigns where criminals try to spread malware or steal data by impersonating different distance working applications. We have seen that the popularity of some videoconferencing platforms has been exploited for spreading malware -- the victim is left with an impression that he has received a link from such a programme or a link is shared that seems to be connected to some such programme but leads to a web page that is being used to collect user data.

The Centre of Registers and Information Systems stresses to the employees of ministries and agencies that information that has been labelled as restricted (AK) can only be forwarded on a videoconferencing system that is controlled by the holder of the information (is hosted in the ICT infrastructure of the holder of the information). If it is not possible to use this kind of a system, the restricted information cannot be forwarded through a videoconference.

 

Precaution measures

 

Do devices that are used for distance working or learning need to be prepared somehow?

Make sure that both your and your child's computer or device has the latest possible software. This is vitally important! If the software is expired, your computer might get infected by just visiting a suspicious web page.

If you know how to find the settings of your smart television, your router and your Internet-connected web camera, you should update their software regularly as well. All this so that the devices in your home could not be used to attack anyone else. Just as you don't want to be the one who transmits the virus.

Additionally, it is important to check whether the anti-virus software of your devices has been able to regularly update itself. Anti-virus never protects you from all the threats -- malware creators are always a step ahead of anti-virus programmes. But if a malware has already circled the globe several times, the anti-virus programmes will also recognize them and stop them before they manage to infect your computer or the computers of those close to you.

Definitely find out whether the people close to you have the latest versions of operations systems and anti-virus software in their computers. In the Windows operation systems, for instance, this means updating the Windows Defender definitions.

I am a head of a company. What should I pay special attention to?

On April 8, the internationally recognized collection of cybersecurity measures "CIS 20 Controls" was made available in Estonian by the Information System Authority. This is a tool that was developed by recognized cybersecurity experts and can be used by IT managers and all others who are responsible for the field of IT in their company, in order to ensure cybersecurity in their company. The latest version of the CIS 20 measures also differentiates between measures that are meant to be implemented by large, but also small and medium sized companies. The Estonian version of the collection of measures and relevant short instructions and instructional videos in Estonian and Russian can be found at https://www.ria.ee/et/kuberturvalisus/ennetus-ja-nouanded/nouanded.html.

Even though it might not be possible for you to implement these measures before the end of the current emergency situation, it is still worth doing it consistently in medium and longer term perspective. This way you will safely survive both possible future single cyberattacks and future emergency situations.

Additionally, see https://www.itl.ee/uudised/itl-soovitab-ettevotetel-kaugtoo-korraldus-labi-moelda/. In its original language – English – the measures can be found here: https://www.cisecurity.org/controls/cis-controls-list/.

What are the five most important recommendations for safe online conduct?

  • Don't open attachments or links from unknown senders.
  • Don't believe threatening letters from unknown senders that demand that you act quickly.
  • Don't give an unknown caller access to your computer.
  • Make sure that you are using the latest version of software and that all security updates have been installed.
  • Regularly back up the files in your computer and on your phone.

Also see the newest entries at https://blog.ria.ee/.

What are the recommendations regarding passwords?

Distance working and learning requires constantly logging into places and inserting passwords. This might create a temptation to use one and the same (and as simple as possible) password everywhere. It would be used to enter work, school, store, social media, chat rooms and gaming sites. But if this one password should leak (and passwords do leak from time to time!) the hackers will see whether the already leaked passwords and usernames can be used to enter other places as well.

One possibility to use different passwords in different places in a way that you do not need to remember the long passwords yourself is to see what options are being offered by password managers. There are several, they can be used for free (e.g. LastPass, Keepass, 1Password) and in this way you only need to remember one long password for your password manager.

But as work done at home, e-mail addresses and all kinds of accounts are currently vitally important for work, study and communication, an important assistant for securing your accounts is multi-factor authentication. This means that even if somebody does get hold of your password (with phishing, malware or previously leaked passwords), they still can't access your e-mail account without a code that is in your phone. No, you do not need to enter the code every time you want to log into Gmail. But if someone tries to get access to your e-mail account from a geographically distant location, they will not be successful.

 

Data storage

 

How to ensure data retention?

There is one more good way to reduce stress about your work and studies during these unusual times: backing up your data. Nobody wants to redo work that they have already done. But we know that devices sometimes break or, even worse, get infected with malware that will not allow access to the data anymore. Schoolchildren might initially find it great that they can say that they could not submit their schoolwork because the computer was not working but in the end even they will still have to redo this work. Losing your work because of ransomware or a device that has unexpectedly broken down is an even bigger worry.

There is a vast array of commercial cloud solutions for backing up your work (Google Drive, Microsoft Onedrive, Amazon Drive, Dropbox) that back up your documents automatically over the Internet. It is your task to save your files to a correct drive and to find your documents again on another device if something happens to yours.

We recommend using an external hard drive or a memory stick as well, to back up your most important data. In the case of large data it can, on one hand, this might make restoring your data faster, on the other hand, keeping large data volumes in cloud solutions is more expensive than using external data carriers. Find out from your employer what backup solutions are even acceptable to them -- is keeping work documents in a cloud even allowed or does the company have different rules.

 

Restrictions on movement in nursing homes

 

Does a quarantined care home have the right to restrict the movement of their residents? Can the residents be restrained, for example, and be prevented from leaving the room by locking their doors?

The care home must ensure that infected and non-infected residents would not come into contact with each other. In order to do this, the residents with the coronavirus diagnosis and symptoms must be separated from other residents. If there are infected people in the care home, the movement of residents between rooms and different sections is not allowed. The residents must be informed of the restrictions, and if necessary, the information must be repeated.

Healthy residents of the care home need to be able to go outside. It is certainly not right to lock people up indoors but the care home residents need to be explained in a manner comprehensible for them, why they cannot move around without restrictions during the quarantine, and if needed, the information must be repeated.

Can residents of care homes currently go to public places, for instance go to town or for a walk?

Healthy clients can move freely if they follow the rules, including to go to work. As of May 18, movement can be restricted on a case-by-case basis, for example, if there are infected people in the care home or people suspected of infection, etc.

 

What to do in case of infection

 

If one family member is infected, what should the rest do? What to do if the infected person cannot be separated from others?

The infected person must definitely stay at home until recovery.

Other members of the family must also stay home for 14 days as they have been in immediate contact with the infected person.

This helps to prevent further spread of the virus.

If another family member develops a fever or a cough during that time period, a family doctor should be consulted.

The infected family member must be separated as much as possible and only one person should provide the care.

It is important to clean all the surfaces at home every day, and to air the rooms.

If an employee has given a positive coronavirus test, does the employer need to notify all their colleagues or only those that have been in contact with the infected person? What measures need to be taken?

If an employee finds out that their coronavirus test came back positive, they need to notify their employer immediately.

The employer must send both infected persons and persons with a suspected infection home to quarantine.

For this, the employer will establish the employees that have come into contact with the infected colleague at the workplace within the past two weeks. They also need to stay home for 14 days and monitor closely their health status. If a person develops a fever or a cough during this time, he needs to contact his family doctor.

Those employees who did not come into direct contact with the infected person may continue their everyday work but should monitor their health closely.

The employer must guarantee that in order to contain the spread of the virus at the workplace

  • necessary protective equipment is used,
  • the rooms are aired and
  • the surfaces are cleaned diligently.

What happens if an employee of a commercial business has fallen ill? Should the store close?

  • If an employee has fallen ill outside working hours, they must stay home for 14 days and contact their family doctor. The doctor will refer them to testing, if necessary and issues the incapacity to work certificate. The employee may return to work after 14 days, provided that they have no fever, cough, rhinitis or other respiratory symptoms. When the employee has recovered and the doctor has terminated the incapacity to work certificate, the employee may return to work and the employer has no right to require the employee to carry out additional testing.

  • If the employee falls ill during the working hours, the employee must immediately go home, contact their family doctor and stay at home for 14 days. If the diagnosis comes back positive for COVID-19, the employer must be informed. The employer must then close the store for at least 48 hours and disinfect the store. In addition, it is important to determine who have been in close contact with the infected employee, they should also remain home for 14 days.

Detailed instructions are available here: https://www.terviseamet.ee/sites/default/files/Nakkushaigused/Juhendid/COVID-19/kaubandusettevotete_juhis_12.04.20-2.pdf.

What medicines are being used in Estonia to treat the coronavirus? There are countries that use malaria medicine for this -- is it being used here as well?

There is no virus-specific treatment for the coronavirus COVID-19 and it is only possible to ease the symptoms. The World Health Organization has not yet recommended any medicines to be taken into the treatment scheme. Some countries have experimented with treating the coronavirus with malaria medicine but experimental treatment is not practiced in Estonia.

When can a person be considered recovered from the coronavirus and how is it determined?

The studies thus far have shown that, on average, in mild and moderate cases an infected person is infectious for 7-12 after the appearance of symptoms, in severe cases up to 14 days. That is why you should isolate for 14 days. In addition, a person must have been

  • without a fever for at least 48 hours and
  • without acute symptoms of the virus for at least 24 hours.

If the fever and coughing persist even on the 14th day, you have to stay home until they are gone and then two more days to be safe.

If a person has been hospitalized with a severe case, getting declared recovered depends largely on his condition. The hospitals generally recommend staying at home for two more weeks after being released from the hospital (this does not apply to those who had mild symptoms but were still hospitalized for some reason).

The virus can be detected in a lab even up to 37 days but the patient is not infectious anymore. As the conclusions of research are contradictory, the safest course of action is to follow the principle of 14 days in isolation. This should be adhered to even if the symptoms disappear within a few days. These kinds of stricter rules help to contain the spread of the virus. Depending on whether you are healing at home or in a hospital, the instructions about your health and the isolation will come from your family physician or attending physician. This means that you should primarily act according to the recommendations of your doctor, who is the person most familiar with the given case.

What kind of movement restrictions apply to me and to the people living with me if I have been diagnosed with the coronavirus?

If you have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, you need to remain home until full recovery. Full recovery means that you have not had any fever within the last 48 hours or any cough/sore throat within the last 24 hours. In order to prevent the spread of the virus, you are forbidden to leave home during the time you are sick. You are permitted to leave home only on the orders of a medical professional or a police officer, or if your life or health would be at risk at home.

If there is nobody who could bring essential goods (food, medicines) to your home, please turn to your local municipality for help, either by phone or e-mail.

If you are not symptomatic yourself, and you are living with someone who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, you can leave home only in the following cases:

  • to perform your professional duties if you are a medical professional or if you offer other services required in dealing with the emergency situation;
  • to procure goods necessary for everyday survival (food, medicines) near your home and only if you have no one to help you with this task;
  • you have ruled out all contacts with the person infected with the coronavirus;
  • you wish to be outdoors.

In any case you need to follow the restrictions that apply in public places: keep a 2-metre distance with other people and stay alone or with just one other person (this restriction does not apply to families moving around together). In addition you need to carry an identity document with you.

The Police and Border Guard Board has the right to monitor the observance of movement restrictions. In case of violations, a penalty payment of up to 2000 € may be imposed.

See also the order of the Government of the Republic from March 26: https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/527032020001/consolide

What are the recommendations for employers regarding employees who have come into contact with infected persons?

After coming into close contact with an infected person, the employees have to stay at home for 14 days and monitor their health status.

If there are any health concerns, the family physician should be contacted.

At the doctor's discretion, it is possible to also receive a certificate of incapacity to work.

 

Banking

 

What should I do I am if I not able to make loan repayments due to a loss of income?

If the loss of income may cause difficulties in loan repayments in due time and in full, contact your loan provider immediately. Quick action before the indebtedness occurs allows good grounds for reaching an arrangement. Also, it is important to take note your credit history would remain positivite, and no notices will be included to the Estonian Credit Register. Additional information: https://minuraha.ee/et/pangandus/laenud/makseraskustes-kaitumine.

What should I do if I have fallen behind my loan, lease or instalment payments?

The most important thing is to address the problem immediately and contact the loan provider or the leasing company. You need to act fast before the indebtedness occurs, it will provide a good ground for reaching an arrangement. Also, it is important to take note your credit history would remain positive, and no notices will be included to the Estonian Credit Register. Additional information: https://minuraha.ee/et/pangandus/laenud/makseraskustes-kaitumine

What can I do to protect my family from the loss of income?

Loss of income, loss of employment or uncertainty about the future may threaten any family. It is therefore important to have a good overview of your or family's income and expenses, loan liabilities and repayment deadlines, and to consider carefully which expenses can be postponed or cancelled, to survive this difficult period. If you have maintained your income, and it is currently possible, some funds should be set aside for even harder periods to cope with unexpected situations. It would be good to have a financial buffer or some funds for peace of mind which would cover at least 3 months' expenses, but any amount would soften the impact if an unexpected cost is called for, or due the crisis, income is reduced. Additional information: https://blogi.fin.ee/2020/03/3-lihtsat-sammu-mida-teha-rahaliste-raskuste-uletamiseks-ja-valtimiseks/

What is a grace period (debt standstill) and when can I use it?

Grace period or debt standstill is an agreement with the bank not to repay the principal contributions of the loan during a certain period. Depending on the type of loan and the agreement with the bank or the lender, this may also mean a period of grace from interest payments (e.g. if the income is completely lost). The amount of deferred payments shall be allocated to the rest of the loan period, if necessary, the term of the loan agreement shall be extended. Other terms of the loan agreement are not changed. The duration of grace period is usually 3-12 months for mortgages, 3-6 months for leasing and consumer loans. No service fee is usually charged, or a reduced service fee is charged for contract amendment for grace period. In some cases, depending on the bank's policy, costs may be added in the form of fees for changing the contract. In specific cases, customer-specific distinctions are allowed. If you are already late with the repayment of the loan and have therefore violated the terms of the contract with the lender, the lender may also refuse the grace period. Grace period or debt standstill can be agreed with the lender and is usually due to temporary income reductions. To explore your options, please contact your lender(s). Additional information (in Estonian): https://www.minuraha.ee/et/pangandus/laenud/makseraskustes-kaitumine.

How do I know what my insurance covers?

The terms of the insurance are provided in the insurance contract, which also indicates the insurance coverage and duration. If any misunderstandings occur, contact your insurance undertaking (if you have signed the contract through an insurance broker or intermediary, you may also contact them). More information can be found here (in Estonian): https://www.minuraha.ee/index.php/et/kindlustus/probleem-kindlustusega

What kind of debt-relief is available for individuals who have taken out a small loan? What kind of debt-relief is available for individuals who have taken an instant loan or a SMS-loan?

Grace period is available for clients with decreased solvency. The amount of deferred payments shall be added to the remainder of the loan period, and if necessary, the term of the loan agreement shall be extended. Other terms of the loan agreement will not be changed. Usually service fee is not charged when concluding the contract for the grace period, or lower-than-usual fee is charged. In specific cases, customer-specific derogations can be applied. For consumer financing, small loans and leasing finance, the duration of the grace period is usually 3-6 months.

What kind of debt-relief is available for small and medium size enterprises and large companies?

Small businesses can usually apply for a grace period under a simplified procedure, similar to private individuals. Medium-sized enterprises are handled according to their circumstances and the needs of the company.

What kind of debt-relief is available for large companies?

Larger companies are handled on a case-by-case basis, and the opening of KredEx Foundation measures are also to be expected. In co-operation with KredEx Foundation, it is possible to use a proportional loan guarantee (50% of the loan amount) or a fixed loan guarantee (35% of the loan amount). The maximum loan guarantee is EUR 5 Million euros or double the company's payroll in 2019 including the social tax. However, the initial amount of KredEx measure is only EUR 100 Million. It is possible this amount will need to be increased.

Should the payments be made by card only during the pandemic, in order to avoid virus transmission with cash?

If possible, it has been recommended to avoid using cash. Coronavirus can survive on contaminated metal, plastic and stainless-steel surfaces for up to 72 hours, on porous materials such as paper and cardboard for up to 24 hours. If you need to use cash, you should pay close attention to hygiene and wash your hands.

We recommend making payments:

  • preferably contactless payment (temporary limit is EUR 50) or
  • bank card, as usual.

What are the banks planning to do and how are they helping the companies that are in trouble?

The banks have affirmed their wish to help their customers so that they could cope with the difficult situation. On March 25, the Bank of Estonia decided to lower the systemic risk buffer required of commercial banks from 1% to 0%. This way 110 million Euros is released to the banks, which the banks can use to cover possible loan losses and to issue new loans.

 

Restrictions on movement in shelters

 

Can symptomatic homeless people move around freely in public places?

People in shelters who are infected with the coronavirus and those who have been in close contact with them may not leave the place where they are staying and must remain in isolation.

The restriction on movement applies to them from the time the disease is diagnosed until they are recovered.

They are allowed to leave the shelter only at the order of a health care worker or a police officer, or in an emergency that threatens their life or health. They may be taken to a hospital for treatment if necessary.

As other people will still need to use the shelter, those who are infected and those that have been in close contact with them must be separated from the others.

The same rules apply to the other people staying in a shelter as to people who are living with someone that has shown symptoms of infection but who are not in direct contact with them.

The police monitor that the restrictions on movement are adhered to in shelters.

 

Economic situation

 

How does the state support the construction companies affected by the crisis?

[Supplementary amended budget] (https://www.riigikogu.ee/tegevus/eelnoud/eelnou/9eb928f5-d085-4104-a317-ad9d767727dd/2020.%20aasta%20riigi%20lisaeelarve%20seaduse%20eeln%C3%B5u%20(171%20SE%20II) includes an aid package to construction companies so that they would survive in a recession. The construction industry will get 145 million Euros to help them maintain stability on the market.

The role of the state as a contracting entity on the market will be increased already this year but the main payments to companies will be made over the following years.

As it is very difficult to accelerate the process when it comes to large infrastructure projects, it is most important to begin with the sites that have already in development.

  • Thus, 100 million Euros of the money directed toward the construction industry has been planned as co-financing for building and reconstructing apartment buildings and small residential buildings.

  • Local municipalities will get 30 million Euros for road construction and the Road Administration will get 10 million Euros.

  • 5 million Euros was earmarked for the budget for demolition of abandoned buildings, to increase the budget for demolition support in the already existing building fund of KredEx will increase by that sum.

Which sectors of the economy are in the most trouble right now?

Right now the most critically affected is the tourism industry, which covers travel companies, accommodation, catering, conferences, seminars and events. The next worst hit is transport, and problems will come after some delay to industry and services. In effect the entire private sector will be affected by the situation.

The main problems for companies are:

  • Liquidity problems from loan liabilities and overdrafts
  • Staff remaining at home, especially in jobs where remote working is not possible, and the question of who should pay them
  • Compulsory leave as an alternative to redundancies or part-time working
  • Inflexible approaches in projects that receive subsidies, as problems may appear later because of EU rules
  • A negative shock to demand, which is already widely evident

How much will it cost to recover from the economic downturn?

The restrictions on economic activity and movement associated with preventing the spread of coronavirus seriously undermine the functioning of our labour market and business. As the causes of the crisis are not related to the Estonian economy, the Government is obliged to do its utmost to mitigate the impact of the crisis on both businesses and households. The further development of economic conditions is unclear, and it is important to monitor the progress of measures to those in need. If the crisis lasts longer than expected, the country must be prepared to consider additional aid measures. Therefore, it is still early to talk about the final amounts of the financial costs of exiting from the crisis.

The impact of crisis mitigation measures in the additional budget adopted by the Parliament for 2020 on the budgetary position of the government sector is EUR 1.15 billion this year. As a result of the crisis, lower tax revenues, financing transactions and the use of reserves will increase the negative cash flow of the Treasury to EUR 3.8 billion this year. To cover the negative cash flow, the Treasury will borrow and issue bonds of EUR 3.5 billion. As a result, the government debt burden is prognosed to rise to around 22% of Estonia's gross domestic product (GDP) by the end of the year. The overview of current economic indicators may be followed via fin.ee/koroonakriis

How does the state handle the situation where a company is unable to pay their employees?

The board of the Unemployment Insurance Fund agreed on March 18, that the Unemployment Insurance Fund plans to compensate 70 percent of salary within two months to avoid layoffs in affected companies.

According to the plan, companies whose turnover and income have fallen sharply and whose employees have no work will be compensated for 70 percent of employees' gross income for two months from March to May. Companies must also participate in the compensation themselves.

To be eligible for compensation, a company must two conditions out of three:

  1. the company's turnover must have fallen by at least 30 percent compared to the same period previous year;
  2. the company cannot provide employment for at least 30% of its employees;
  3. employees' salaries have been reduced by at least 30 percent.

The measure will apply retroactively from 1 March to 31 May, 2020. The compensation may be claimed for up to two months' salary for the period chosen by the employer within that three-month period. The measure therefore also applies to workers who have already received notice of redundancy as from 1 March.

On May 13, 2020, the Board of the Unemployment Insurance Fund decided to extend the compensation measure for payroll until June, changing its conditions. The Government of the Republic approved of the decision on May 28. Remuneration compensation is currently 50% of the salary.

Compensation shall be paid if, the turnover or income of the company has decreased compared to June last year at least 50%.

In addition, the company must meet one of the following two conditions:

  • there is no employment under agreed terms to at least 50 % of the employees of the company, and the working hours of the employees has been reduced by at least 30%,

  • the wages or salaries of at least 50 % of the employees of the company has been reduced by at least 30% or to the minimum wage.

  • The employer has reduced the working hours or the wages of the employees for the entire month of June.

  • The compensation can be applied for by both private and public sector employers, regardless of the size of the company.

  • Payroll compensation for June can be requested by the companies who have no tax debt or who have applied for deferred tax payment.

The employer can apply for compensation for employees working based on an employment contracts whose employment relationship began no later than on March 1, 2020 and for whom an entry has been made of the same date to the employment register.

  • Compensation shall be paid to those employees who have not been provided with employment as agreed by the employer or whose salary has been reduced.

  • The amount of compensation is 50% of the average monthly salary. The maximum amount of compensation is 800 euros. In addition, the employer has to pay the employee a salary of at least 150 euros (gross). The employer must make their payment before the submission of the application.

  • The employee will receive at least a minimum wage, i.e. 584 euros combined from the Unemployment Insurance Fund and the employer. If the employee has received lower salary than the minimum salary due to the part-time nature of their work, their current income level will remain the same.

  • In July, the employers can also apply for wage or salary compensation for June for those employees for whom compensation was applied for March, April or May. Therefore, the employee may receive compensation for a maximum of three months instead of two months.

  • the Unemployment Insurance Fund and the employer pay the social tax, unemployment insurance tax and compulsory pension tax and income tax on the compensation or wages, respectively.

The state supports companies through short and long-term aid packages. What exactly are they?

The government adopted a short-term package on March 19. State funds are channelled to support businesses through KredEx and the Rural Development Foundation. The package also includes Unemployment Insurance Fund labour market support, sickness benefits, tax benefits and allows tax arrears to be deferred for 18 months. It also includes the temporary suspension of the second pillar contribution to the pension fund and the partial reimbursement of the direct costs of the cancelled events.

Content of the package:

  • Additional grants through KredEx. Read more about the services here: https://kredex.ee/en/koroona
  • Labour market services provided by the Unemployment Insurance Fund to support reduced wages. The total amount is EUR 250 million and is subject to the following conditions:
  1. the benefit is available to any qualifying employer for a period of two months from March to May 2020;
  2. the allowance shall be paid up to a maximum of EUR 1000 per month and per worker;
  3. the allowance shall be payable, as a general rule, at 70% of the gross salary of the employee over the previous 12 months, plus at least EUR 150 gross salary from the employer. The Unemployment Insurance Fund and the employer pay all taxes on wages and allowances.
  • From March to May, the state will reimburse the employee for the first three days of sick leave for all sick leave certificates.
  • Rural businesses can apply for a guarantee (up to EUR 50 million), a working loan (up to EUR 100 million) or land capital (up to EUR 50 million) from the Rural Development Foundation.
  • Advance social tax aid measure will be implemented for self-employed workers.
  • Pillar II pension fund contributions will be temporarily suspended.
  • The State will reimburse up to € 3 million of the direct costs of cultural and sporting events that were scheduled between March and April but have been cancelled due to COVID-19.

 

Used masks

 

If I have been diagnosed with the coronavirus or if I suspect that I have been infected, how should I dispose of my infected waste (masks, gloves, paper tissues, etc.)?

If you are ill or if you suspect illness, the waste you produce should be placed in a plastic bag, tied tightly and discarded among the mixed municipal waste. Since people do come in direct contact with waste, it should be considered contagious. Therefore, it is important that possibly contaminated waste should not be sorted.

If I have used single-use mask and gloves in a shop, how do I dispose of them after shopping?

  • if you have been in a public space, such as a food store, put your used mask, gloves, tissues and other items which might be a potential source of contamination, into a separate plastic bag, close the bag firmly, so it would not pose danger to the others. Some stores have separate disposal units for the disposal of personal protective equipment. If there are no special units, dispose of your used personal protection equipment as general household waste.

  • the used personal protective equipment must not be placed in the rubbish bin in a way that would allow access to these items for other persons, such as people searching through the rubbish who might get infected this way. The used personal protective equipment or other waste must not be thrown anywhere else outside the store nor in any green areas.

If I use a home-made mask, how do I dispose of it?

  • Instructions on how to make a home-made mask have been published by the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority. https://www.ttja.ee/et/uudised/ttja-koostas-juhendi-kuidas-valmistada-nii-meditsiinilisi-kui-isetehtud-maske

  • If the mask can be used more than once, then according to the instructions it needs to be washed in the washing machine at no less than 60 degrees.

  • If you want to dispose of the mask after the use, put it in a plastic bag, close the bag firmly and dispose it to the general household waste.

  • If you want to dispose of the mask after the end of the emergency situation when there is no more risk of spreading the virus, dispose it to the textile waste.

 

Psychological support

 

How can I maintain my mental health during the crisis and how can get help if I need it?

  • Be kind to yourself and to others around you! Take into account that adapting to a new situation can be stressful for everyone.
  • Develop a daily routine: get enough sleep, maintain a healthy lifestyle, establish fixed working and rest times.
  • Be there for the others! Call every day to a few friends or family members, check how they are doing.
  • If you are concerned about your mental health, talk to someone you trust.
  • If you are taking any medication to support your mental health, do not stop taking it.
  • Child support telephone: 116 111 and www.lasteabi.ee offers support to children and adolescents.
  • Psychological first aid can be reached at the national crisis hotline 1247 and www.palunabi.ee. In order to provide assistance, the specialists of the Social Insurance Board victim support crisis hotline 116 006 have been involved.

Over the phone you get advice on how to maintain the mental health of yourself and others during the crisis. People are welcome to call if they are concerned about their loved ones and want to discuss how to provide them with better emotional support. Everybody is welcome to call, including people fighting the virus on the frontline, doctors, nurses, policemen, rescuers, teachers, etc., to support their ability to continue their work and prevent the burnout. You can call and speak in Estonian, Russian or English 24/7. People who prefer not to call can be advised over internet at https://www.palunabi.ee/.

  • The website https://peaasi.ee offers web-based mental health counselling.
  • Contact your family doctor who can refer you to a specialist.
  • If necessary, contact your psychologist or psychiatrist – they continue offering support over telephone and internet

 

Support for children

 

Where should children and adults who are in trouble turn to when they need advice and help with matters regarding children?

The Child Helpline 116 111 operates all over Estonia 24/7, in Estonian and Russian, also in English if necessary. The calls are free to all callers, it is possible to call from a mobile phone even if you are out of call credit. All queries that have to do with children, topics connected to children are welcome, also notifications of children in need of assistance. It is open for both children themselves and adults -- parents, relatives, specialists, neighbours, friends, and acquaintances. But also everybody else who needs advice regarding children. You can also ask for advice by e-mail, writing to info[at]lasteabi[dot]ee. There is also the possibility to use internet counselling on the webpage of the Child Helpline http://www.lasteabi.ee The queries are answered by experienced counsellors who first establish the reason for the query and then give advice and instructions on how to act in that situation. If quick intervention is necessary in the interests of the child, they cooperate with the police, the Child Protection Department of the Social Insurance Board and the local child protection worker. The person making the query may remain anonymous if they so wish. If the query makes it clear that the wellbeing and safety of the child are in danger, the Child Helpline is obligated to forward the information to the relevant specialists. All queries are recorded. The Child Helpline can also be found on Facebook and as an app on a smart device, using the search term "Lasteabi" on both.

 

Support for victims

 

If someone has been beaten, experienced mental or sexual violence, been a victim of negligence or maltreatment, where should they turn for help?

People are welcome to call the victim support crisis hotline 116 006, the call is free of charge and the service is available 24/7. If they so desire, the person calling the victim support crisis hotline may remain anonymous. The calls can be made in Estonian, Russian or English. If making a phone call is not possible, or if the person does not like to talk about their problem over the phone, assistance can be provided by contacting palunabi.ee where the victim can receive advice and have a conversation using a chat window. Web counselling takes place 24/7 and in three languages.

Crisis counselling 25/7 via telephone and internet helps the victims to reach the necessary help. For example, the victim can contact the crisis hotline at the presence of the police patrol, or later, in order to receive initial advice and agree a meeting with the victim support specialist. Victim support crisis hotline can be called from abroad at: +372 614 7393.

 

Weddings

 

Can I get married? What are the special requirements?

To find out what rules apply in the institution where the marriage is registered, you must contact the local municipality, clergyman or notary that performs the registration.

When organizing a private gathering, it is particularly important to protect older and immunocompromised people, as they are at the highest risk from the coronavirus. Responsible attitude by the person organizing a family gathering helps to prevent the spread of the virus and avoid new victims.

When planning the number of wedding guests, make sure that everybody has enough space in order to keep the necessary safe distance from others if they so wish. Before engaging in the customary embracing or handshaking, think about how this might enable the virus to spread.

More information on how to avoid the coronavirus can be found on this web page: https://www.kriis.ee/en/coronavirus-its-prevention-symptoms-and-how-it-spreads. We recommend that everybody acquaints themselves with this information before participating in the event.

 

Waste management, recycling and processing waste

 

Am I allowed to burn my waste in a bonfire to avoid any risk of infection?

No. Burning waste in a bonfire or in a home stove or fireplace is forbidden as poisonous compounds hazardous to heath are released in the course of it.

How can I take out the garbage while in isolation?

In single family, detached homes it is simple – keep an eye on the waste sorting requirements and take the waste to the container. In apartment buildings it is more complicated, and the best thing to do would be to not go outside your apartment during isolating. However, if it seems that the collected waste is starting to become visibly and perceptibly problematic, ask for someone’s help in getting it to the container. This means that the waste must be sealed in a plastic bag and the bag placed outside the apartment door, while wearing disposable gloves. Someone, also wearing protective gear, will then take it away.

If I am well, not contagious, and staying home, like everyone, what should I do about sorting waste?

In that case, everything will work as it usually does and you can continue sorting waste. We would like to remind you that tissues should not be discarded among the paper waste. Usually tissues, including single use napkins and paper towels, should be discarded among the biodegradable waste.

  • Empty disinfectant bottles are packages and should be placed in the package bin.
  • Disposable rubber gloves that you might use, for example, when going to the shop, should be discarded among the mixed municipal waste, preferably in a closed plastic bag.
  • It is very important to wash hands with warm water and soap or use disinfectant. We would like to emphasise that you should do this also after touching the waste bin.

 

KredEx measures

 

What additional services does the KredEx Foundation provide to companies affected by crisis?

The KredEx Foundation package of measures have been developed based on various probable crisis scenarios, and with the aim of helping companies to prevent or mitigate liquidity problems.

Pursuant to the decision of the Government, KredEx Foundation offers the following new services within the framework of the existing economic package in the following order:

  • for loan guarantees to offer additional surety for new and existing bank loans. KredEx will receive targeted special purpose support up to EUR 1 Billion euros for loan guarantees.
  • for revolving business loans in the amount of EUR 500 Million in order to help the companies to overcome liquidity problems caused by the coronavirus, including, where necessary, the re-payment of bank loans.
  • for investment loans in the amount of EUR 50 Million to provide investment loans to companies so they can overcome problems caused by the coronavirus.

More information can be found at: https://kredex.ee/et/koroona

 

Work of the government commission

 

Who belongs to the government commission?

The activities of the commission are headed by the Prime Minister. The commission members include: the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Minister of Social Affairs, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Education and Research, the Minister of Defence, and the Secretary of State. The commission may include additional members in its work as needed. 

The current inter-agency working group, led by the Minister of Social Affairs, transferred the work to a team assisting the Government Committee, consisting of representatives of the ministries and agencies concerned.

 

Work of the scientific advisory board

 

What is the role of the Government Committee Scientific Advisory Board?

On 20 March, the Government Committee of the Emergency Situation convened a Scientific Advisory Board to gather and to analyse expert information for the Government Committee. Among other things, the impact of the restrictions currently in force on the prevention and control of the spread of the virus will be assessed.

Professor Irja Lutsar of the Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine of the University of Tartu was approved as head of the COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Board.

The members of the Advisory Board are:

  • Krista Fischer, Professor of Mathematical Statistics at the University of Tartu;
  • Kristi Rüütel, Research Secretary of the National Institute for Health Development;
  • Peep Talving, Chief doctor of North-Estonian Regional Hospital, Professor of Surgical Diseases at the Institute of Clinical Medicine at the University of Tartu;
  • Pillerin Soodla, Doctor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Tartu;
  • Andres Merits, Professor and Applied Virologist at the University of Tartu.

 

Defence Force

 

What kind of precautions have the defence forces taken to stop the spread of COVID-19 into the defence forces?

The Estonian Defence Forces have limited the movements of active troops abroad and have very critically reviewed the needs and objectives of foreign missions. All service personnel arriving from other countries will be working from home for the restriction period, if possible. As a preventive measure, the service personnel who might have been exposed to infected persons when abroad will also be working from home, if possible.

For each planned operation in Estonia, the heads of the military units will make a decision whether or not to cancel. If an event has participants who are from outside the Defence Forces, the head of the unit has the right to cancel or use remote work possibilities. Events that turn into public events will be coordinated with the local government.

Serving troops who display the symptoms of disease will work remotely.

How does the Defence Forces separate sick or people who are possible virus carriers from others?

As a precaution, quarantine and isolation are applied in the Defence Forces. Sick staff are placed in quarantine and are separated from others. The isolation is also applied to staff who have no symptoms but are suspected to have been exposed to the virus.

 

Unused tickets and compensation

 

What is going to happen to tickets purchased from advance ticket sales?

According to the Ministry of Culture, the rights of the ticket holders, and the obligations of the organisers of the cancelled cultural event due to COVID-19 virus, must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. It is necessary to evaluate the content of the agreement concluded between the parties and the possibility of amending the agreement in order to find a mutually appropriate solution. Agencies and organisations organising events may offer, for example, gift cards or an event to take place at an alternative time, but if the ticket holder does not agree with the offer, they reserve the right to withdraw from the agreement and to get a refund for the tickets.

Due to the high number of cancelled events, please be patient during this process.

How is the state supporting the organisers of cultural and sporting events, institutions and freelancers who are incurring huge losses because of the coronavirus crisis?

The Ministry of Culture had a crisis package of 25 million euros for supporting the continuation of cultural and sporting institutions and allowing events to take place. This crisis package has now been used in full. Budgetary constraints meant that a conservative approach was taken at first, and so some money is left in some areas. This money, which is about 2.5 million euros, will not be lost from the culture and sport. The Ministry of Culture will soon be announcing additional funding rounds.

The additional funding rounds are intended to support creators of traditional national handicrafts, houses of culture, organisers of large musical events, and filmmakers. More detailed conditions for the new rounds are being decided on and they will be announced to applicants in good time.

 

Legal acts pertaining to the emergency situation

 

Where can you find legislation about the emergency situation? Is the information available also in Russian and English?

Legislation on the emergency situation is published on the website of the Official Journal, where all legislation is available under direct links. Government acts and orders issued by the person in charge of the emergency situation are published as soon as they have been submitted by the Government Office, in both current and earlier wordings if they are amended. The latest legislative acts are marked as ´New´ for ease of use. When new legistlative acts on the emergency situation are published, the Facebook page of the Riigi Teataja is updated accordingly.

All the acts are translated into Russian and English and can be found in Russian at Чрезвычайное положение and in English at Emergency Situation.

Both the acts in Estonian and the translations are regularly updated. The updates are published as the new wording of the whole text.

Additional information can be requested by emailing ert[at]riigiteataja[dot]ee.

Government instructions on preventing COVID-19 are also available on the government website www.valitsus.ee and on the dedicated COVID-19 site www.kriis.ee

 

Local government work

 

 

Paying taxes

 

How does the state support businesses that are having trouble paying their taxes?

  • In order to mitigate the financial situation of companies, the Tax and Customs Board will suspend the calculation of interest on the corporate tax arrears during the emergency situation. Interest exemption will apply retroactively from March 1 until May 18.

  • As of May 18, the interest rate will be reduced from the current 0.06 per cent to 0.03 per cent. Going forward, the Tax and Customs Board may reduce the interest rate by 50 to 100 per cent.

  • The state is going to cover the first quarter advance social tax payments for self-employed persons to help them overcome the economic difficulties caused by the crisis. The state will transfer the first quarter advance payment of the social tax to the self-employed person's advance payment account at the Tax and Customs Board. If the self-employed person has already made the advance payment, they can use this amount to cover any current or future tax liability, as well as request the payment of these funds to their bank account.

  • If the entrepreneur wishes to participate in public procurements, apply for grants or permits from the state or local municipality, it is definitely necessary to organize the payment of arrears in instalments. The payment of tax arrears in instalments is also necessary for applying to several state support measures.

  • The payment of tax arrears in instalments is important even when the difficulties are long-term.

  • All tax returns must be correctly completed and submitted in due time so that the state can assess the real situation of companies and make the right decisions to help them.

How can businesses obtain up-to-date information regarding tax changes?

Tax and Customs Board service bureaus were reopened on May 18. To protect the health of the customers and the customer service officials, the 2+2 rule is in force in the service bureaus and the waiting rooms of the service bureaus will remain closed. Income tax returns of natural persons will be accepted both electronically and on paper until June 30.

  • The Tax and Customs Board opened a website that gathers together tax information regarding the emergency situation at https://www.emta.ee/eng/etcbs-information-emergency-situation, where companies will find answers to frequently asked questions and current news about the changes. Information on the website is being constantly updated.

  • In Russian, the answers to frequently asked questions can be found at https://www.emta.ee/ru/chrezvychaynaya-situacya.

  • For further questions, we ask the entrepreneurs to contact the e-mail address ariklient[at]emta[dot]ee or to call 880 0812. The Tax and Customs Board responds to the e-mails within five working days, if your question in more urgent, you should preferably try reaching us on the phone.

  • Customs information can be obtained from tolliinfo[at]emta[dot]ee or call: 880 0814

  • For technical issues and instructions regarding e-MTA, please contact e-maks[at]emta[dot]ee or call 880 0815.

  • Questions from private customers will be answered by eraklient[at]emta[dot]ee and by phone 880 0811.

 

Foreign missions

 

Does the coronavirus change the duties of the Estonians serving on foreign missions in any way? Will the soldiers be brought back home?

Under the current plan, the defence forces will continue their participation in international military operations on the same principles. Any changes will be made to suit the changing situation so as to guarantee the health and safety of our units.

The spread of the coronavirus means that many countries around the world have placed bans or restrictions on entry. As civil aviation companies are cancelling their flights because airports are closed and many departures and arrivals are not happening, the time served by those participating in foreign missions may be extended by up to two months or until air traffic is restored.

How is the safety of the soldiers participating in foreign missions and their protection from the corona virus guaranteed?

The headquarters of different military operations have already implemented and, if necessary, will implement further restrictions to the activities and tasks of the units in the framework of the operation to guarantee the safety of the personnel and avoid them getting infected with the virus. In addition to generally known hygiene requirements, the movement of people and contact with civilians will be restricted in necessary. The quarantine and isolation requirements already set by different countries will also apply to those going to the area of operations and returning from there.

Does the spread of the corona virus influence the return home of the soldiers in any way when their service time is up?

The COVID-19 pandemic and the traffic restrictions it has caused might extend the period of time that the units spend in the area of operations. The changes are made according to need and the changing situation.

Why are the servicemen participating in foreign missions not able to come to Estonia for a vacation at the planned time?

Most countries in the world have implemented an entry ban or restrictions to entry and there are also compulsory quarantine periods in place upon entry into the country. Civil airlines are cancelling their flights due to airport closures. In this situation, all kind of international movement and crossing of state borders is more complicated.

The restrictions and bans are also in place in most of the countries where Estonian servicemen are participating in military operations or through which their transportation to the area of operations and home takes place. This means that the movement of people to the area of operation and back from there is currently more difficult. Taking into consideration the lowering of the infection risk of the soldiers serving in foreign missions, it is sensible to avoid their international movements until it becomes safer.

What happens if a serviceman participating in a foreign mission gets infected with the corona virus?

Those who get sick during a military operation are guaranteed all possible medical help according to the order of things thus far. If necessary, the defence forces have the capability to extraordinarily transport the soldiers who are sick or in need of medical help back home.

 

Self-employed persons

 

What should a natural person enterpreneur do?

The state pays advance payments to self-employed persons (natural person entrepreneurs) in the first quarter to cover the social tax in order to help cope with the economic difficulties of the crisis.

The amount of the advance payment of the social security contributions of natural person entrepreneurs in the first quarter shall be transferred to their advance payment accounts in the Tax and Customs Board. If the natural person entrepreneur has already made the advance payment, they can use this money to cover any tax liability either presently or in the future, and they may request to receive it to their bank account.

Both for natural person entrepreneurs and for other taxpayers no tax debt interest calculations will be made within two months, i.e. from March 1 1 March to 1 May, and these interests will not need to be paid later.

If there are problems with payment, natural person entrepreneurs must also submit tax returns correctly, otherwise the State cannot obtain an adequate assessment of the status of entrepreneurs. When a tax debt is incurred, the Estonian Tax and Customs Board recommends the deferral of debt. The payment obligation can be deferred also when the date for payment has not yet arrived, but the tax return has already been submitted.

The calculation of interest from tax debt is suspended from March 1, to May 1. However, this does not mean that the tax should not be paid if it is possible – suspending the calculation of interest does not mean tax exemption.

The natural person entrepreneur needs to take into account that if they suspend their business activities in the Business Register, then their health care insurance will lapse in two months’ time. It would be advisable for people whose health care insurance depends on their activities as a natural person entrepreneur, not to suspend their business activities.

 

Number of infected persons in Estonia and information resources

 

How many people have been infected with the coronavirus in Estonia, how many people receive in-patient care?

A coronavirus map giving information about Estonia can be found on the website https://www.terviseamet.ee/koroonakaart.

The Health Board publishes statistics each day for the previous 24 hours on its website.

 

Testing for the virus

 

I am coming from Russia in a car, where can I get the corona test?

Currently there are 14 public coronavirus testing sites where you can go with a personal identification document at a pre-booked time to give a nasopharyngeal sample for the coronavirus test.

In order to book a time you must call the booking line of the testing centre 678 0000. Calls are taken from Monday to Friday 9.00-17.00.

The testing sites are located at:

  • Tallinn, Haabersti -- Paldiski mnt 104b, next to Saku Suurhall (SYNLAB tent)
  • Tallinn, Mustamägi -- Ehitajate tee 27, the parking lot of the Mustamäe Health Center (Medicum tent)
  • Tallinn, Lasnamägi -- Narva mnt 95, the Mäe gate of the Tallinn Song Festival Ground (Medicum tent)
  • Tartu -- Laulupeo puiestee 25, near the song festival ground (Qvalitas tent)
  • Viljandi -- the Viljandi market square (SYNLAB bus)
  • Pärnu -- Rannapark P1 the parking lot of Naisterand (Qvalitas tent)
  • Rakvere -- Tuleviku 1, the Rakvere polyclinic (SYNLAB office)
  • Paide -- Tallinna mnt 47, parking lot (SYNLAN bus)
  • Kuressaare -- Aia 25, in front of the main entrance of the Kuressaare hospital
  • Narva -- Joala 20, Narva Gate (Corrigo office)
  • Kohtla-Järve -- Ilmajaama 14, in the parking lot of the G-block (Ida-Viru Central Hospital tent)
  • Hiiumaa -- the location of giving the sample is agreed upon with Hiiumaa Hospital
  • Võru -- Kooli 4, in the parking lot of Kagukeskus, near the car wash (Qvalitas tent)

Can the self-isolation time of a close contact be reduced with testing?

The self-isolation time of a close contact cannot be reduced.

I have a referral to COVID-19 testing. Why has the testing center not called me yet?

Due to the increase in testing volumes, the waiting lines are slightly longer. If you gave a correct phone number when the referral was issued, you will definitely be contacted.

Where can I have my child tested for coronavirus on their return from a risky country?

People arriving in Estonia from a country at risk from covid-19 from 1 September can shorten their obligation to remain in isolation and return to work by being tested for coronavirus in the airport and sea port. The test is free to residents of Estonia, foreigners can pay on the spot by card.

Those arriving on foot in the A and D terminals of the Port of Tallinn can do the test with the help of a medic from Confido, and those arriving at Tallinn airport can go to the testing point run by Qvalitas with an application. The application can be filled in on the spot. It takes about five minutes to fill in the form and take the test and the tests will be carried out on a first-come-first-served basis at the port and airport. The testing points are open until the last passenger by boat or plane has arrived.

Travellers arriving from an at-risk country at any other sea port or airport or by train or other overland transport, can take a test by booking a time with the SYNLAB and Medicum testing centres by calling 678 0000. Priority in testing will be given to those with symptoms of illness, after which the wait will be of one or two days. If you know when you will be arriving in Estonia, it is recommended that you book the test in advance.

Tests can be carried out in public testing points in Estonia in Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu, Narva, Kohtla-Järve, Viljandi, Paide, Rakvere, Kuressaare and Kärdla.

Foreigners can reduce their period of self-isolation by paying for a corona test. To book a time they should call one of the service providers.

Who will be included in the population-based study determining the virus antibodies and how will it be conducted?

On April 16, the government gave its support to conducting two seroepidemiological studies to determine the extent of the spread of the coronavirus in Estonia. A representative sample will be selected for testing in the population-based seroepidemiological study (i.e. a study that will determine the presence of virus antibodies). Participation in the planned study is voluntary. The pilot project of the seroepidemiological study will be carried out on Saaremaa and in Õismäe. The random samples of each community will be selected by the Estonian Health Insurance Board and the total number of study subjects will be 1080 people from Saaremaa and 1080 people from Õismäe. Family doctors will conduct the recruitment of volunteers and the taking of test samples for analysis. A sample of venous blood will be taken from people, to determine the presence of antibodies that show whether a person has already been exposed to the coronavirus. The study will last from May 1 to July 31. The pilot project is coordinated by the University of Tartu.

The expected goal of the testing is to establish how many people have already been exposed to the coronavirus. On the basis of the results of the study, it will be easier to decide which restrictions of the emergency situation can be eased and when.

In the framework of the COVID-19 monitoring system scientific project, a University of Tartu research team will carry out interviews and testing among a random sample covering the whole of Estonia. 2000 people will be tested weekly -- both symptomatic and asymptomatic, to evaluate the national spread of the virus in different counties and among different population groups. The COVID-19 monitoring programme is lead by the University of Tartu. The Government Commission will get weekly updates of the results of the monitoring.

What will the planned sero-epidemiological study show?

Seroepidemiological studies enable to determine whether there are virus antibodies in the blood.

If the virus has entered the organism and the person is presenting with symptoms, then about 5-10 days after the symptoms appear, the body starts to produce antibodies to fight the virus. Therefore, testing for antibodies is not necessary during the early stage of the disease. That is also the reason why the antibodies test cannot form the basis of determining the need for self-isolation.

Both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) estimate that determining antibodies might be necessary for assessing the immunity of the population, (resistance to virus(es)) during later sero-epidemiological studies.

On 16 April 2020, the government decided to support two sero-epidemiological studies in Estonia to determine the extent of the spread of coronavirus in the country.

With the testing it is hoped to receive information about how many people have been impacted by coronavirus. Results of the study will help to decide which emergency situation restrictions can be lifted. A population-based sero-epidemiological (i.e. virus antibody-determining) study certainly does not mean testing the entire population, but a representative sample will be selected for testing. Participation in the planned study is optional.

Testing will be carried out under the research project of the COVID-19 monitoring system and will be carried out by the research team of the University of Tartu. People will be selected based on random selection for testing across Estonia. Weekly, 2,000 people will be tested, regardless if they have symptoms or not, so it would be possible to assess the spread of the infection across the country in different counties and population groups. The results of the study shall be communicated to the Government Committee every week.

The sero-epidemiological research pilot project will be carried out in Saaremaa and Õismäe. The purpose of the study is to determine how many people have been exposed to the coronavirus.

The random selections of both communities will be established by the Estonian Health Insurance Fund. The total number of subjects is 1,080 people from Saaremaa and 1,080 people from Õismäe. A sample of blood will be taken from the vein, and the presence of antibodies will be determined, which shows whether a person has been infected with COVID-19. Recruitment of volunteers and sampling will be carried out by the family physicians. The study will take place from May 1 to July 31. The pilot project will be co-ordinated by the research group of the University of Tartu.

Is there information on the longevity of the immunity achieved after suffering through the coronavirus? How long might it last?

It is too early to say whether suffering though the disease will create immunity. The virus is new, only having emerged at the end of December. Based on previous viruses, including coronaviruses, it is probable that protecting antibodies will appear in people. But we cannot presume it with absolute certainty yet.

What kind of tests are currently used for early detection of a coronavirus infection?

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommend using molecular assays that detect SARS-CoV-2 virus RNA. These require well-equipped laboratories, skilled specialists and several reagents. At the same time the testing capability will not be able to keep up with the growing demand.

Several rapid tests that give a result in only 10 to 30 minutes have been developed. In order to guarantee the reliability of the results from these, the rapid tests have to be clinically validated. The WHO COVID-19 reference laboratory is currently validating commercial testing kits. The European Commission along with the member states is financing accelerated clinical validation studies of COVID-19 diagnostic rapid tests in the hospital laboratories of several member states.

The scientific publication of the results should soon bring clarity to how the diagnostic rapid tests work clinically, what their limitations are, and which tests are sufficiently safe and reliable to be used in medicine and public health. In validating the rapid tests, the ECDC is working in close co-operation with the European Commission, the authorities of the member states, a non-profit organization FIND (https://www.finddx.org) that is developing laboratory diagnostics, and WHO. The member states are notified immediately after the results have become clear.

What is a rapid coronavirus test coronavirus, and why is not used in Estonia?

Based on current knowledge and technology, the only reliable method for early diagnosis of coronavirus Covid-19 and the detection of infectious cases is the coronavirus RNA (nucleic acid) test. A nasal cotton swab will be taken. RNA diagnostics are carried out by major hospital laboratories and by SYNLAB and the Laboratory of The Health Board.

Other so-called serological rapid tests on the market which determine blood antigens or antibodies are not reliable and are not capable of assessing the patient's infection risks. According to the latest studies, early antibodies against coronavirus will develop 5-10 days after the onset of symptoms. Since the patient is highly infectious throughout this period, an antibody test is not suitable for early diagnosis of the disease and for determining the need for quarantine. Such rapid tests provide many false negative answers, which is why the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) are not recommending using them at the present stage. At the same time, both the WHO and the ECDC estimate that the determination of antibodies may be necessary for subsequent sero-epidemiological testing to assess the immunity of the population. At present, specialists and scientists believe that reliable sero-epidemiological tests can only be carried out under laboratory conditions.

A number of rapid tests have been developed, which will only take 10 to 30 minutes to provide the result. In order to ensure the reliability of the results obtained by them, rapid tests must be clinically validated. The WHO Covid-19 reference laboratory is currently validating commercial testing kits. The European Commission, together with the Member States, will finance accelerated clinical validation studies for rapid diagnostic tests in hospital laboratories in several Member States. The publication of results as scientific publications should shortly make it clear how rapid diagnostic tests work clinically, what are their limitations and which tests are sufficiently safe and reliable for medical or public health use. The ECDC will cooperate closely with the European Commission, with the national authorities, with the non-profit agency developing laboratory diagnosis protocol (https://www.findx.org) and the WHO, in the validation of rapid tests. The Member States will be notified as soon as the results are clear.

The Health Board has warned that there are no home testing kits available at the moment, see additional information from the Health Board website: https://www.terviseamet.ee/et/uudised/terviseamet-arge-ostke-ega-kasutage-internetis-reklaamitavaid-sars-cov-2-teste. All testing devices are medical devices. In the case of such in-vitro diagnostic devices, the seller is not obliged to inform the Health Board. If the manufacturer or the manufacturer's authorised representative were established in Estonia, they should inform the Estonian Health Board of placing the product on the market. If the manufacturer is located elsewhere outside Estonia, the distributor is obliged to make sure that the test manufacturer has complied with all the requirements. The Health Board recommends that all distributers inform the Health Board of such tests, despite the lack of an obligation. This is due to the fact of a large number of fake test kits being available.

Why can´t everybody be tested for coronavirus?

Testing people across the board is not appropriate, as the result only reflects the situation at the time of testing and does not exclude a positive test result, for example, on the next day. Therefore, negative test result can create a false sense of safety.

Moreover, the result of the test will not provide the necessary information for people to look after themselves, as there is no specific treatment available for coronavirus as yet. Currently with the positive test result, the patient can just alleviate the symptoms as with a common cold.

If you have fallen ill, you must call your family doctor or family doctor's help line 1220. The need to test will be decided by the family doctor based on your health condition and guidelines provided to doctors.

If you or your family members are experiencing shortage of breath or breathing difficulties, call the emergency line 112.

To slow the spread of the disease, it is important for everyone to avoid physical contact with other people, especially with people who have symptoms of the disease, follow the usual hygiene rules, and anyone who becomes ill must stay at home until they have recovered.

What are the steps for getting tested?

  • Tests should be done if symptoms appear. Symptoms usually appear 5-6 days after infection. In some cases the person infected is contagious a day or two before the symptoms appear.
  • If symptoms appear, stay at home and call your family doctor. The family doctor will decide whether a test is needed and will give health advice.
  • If the family doctor decides that you need a test, they will send an electronic request to the laboratory and they will call you to agree on the place and time for the test. Wait for the call. Tests can also be done at weekends and on national holidays.
  • Take an ID document with you to the test and be on time.
  • Only a person with an electronic referral can give the nasopharyngeal sample at the agreed time with an ID document. There is no point in coming just in case, only people with a prior registration are tested. You should come alone for the test.
  • Wait for the result. You will be called within two working days. The results will also be in the digilugu.ee portal.
  • If your test is positive, stay at home and follow the advice of your family doctor. If your health worsens, contact your family doctor again or call an ambulance on 112. 
  • If Covid-19 infection is confirmed you must remain in self-isolation as ordered by your doctor, following the same conditions as those required for quarantine by goverment order no 257. In either case you may only break quarantine in exceptional circumstances such as emergencies, police instructions, or going to hospital because of worsening health.

Can I pay to have a coronavirus test?

You can pay to get a coronavirus test from providers including Confido https://broneerimine.confido.ee/ , Medicum https://www.medicum.ee/ , SYNLAB https://minu.synlab.ee/toode/koroonaviiruse-maaramine , Qvalitas Arstikeskus https://qvalitas.ee/et/ and others.

It is reasonable for people showing signs of illness to take a test or if there is a medical reason for it. People showing no signs of infection do not need to take a test as the test result reflects only the moment of testing and a negative result can create a false sense of security and does not mean there will be no infection in the near future.

How long does it take for the Health Board to receive the results of a coronavirus test after testing? Will the person tested get the information over the telephone only if the test came back positive or regardless of the result?

Persons who have tested positive will definitely receive a phone call. Testing and providing information on test results takes time due to excessive workload, but usually the results come in within 2 days.

When the person tests negative, the test results will be entered to the digital Patient Portal digilugu.ee, and not everybody will receive a phone call. You can access digilugu.ee website using your ID-card or Mobile-ID.

How quickly do the results of the virus test reach the patient portal? There are claims that on occasions there is no information today for a test done on Friday but the results of a test done on Sunday are there.

The information on the result of the test will be sent to the family doctor who will enter in into the patient portal. Persons whose test results were positive will be notified personally by phone.

Who is being tested for coronavirus, how, and why?

Coronavirus test will be done for:

  • people at any age with symptoms
  • people at any age with any medical indication
  • people receiving hospital in-patient care with virus symptoms

The need for testing is determined by the family doctor who has been provided with specific guidelines which have been agreed jointly by family doctors and the Health Board. The guidelines will help the doctor to make decisions regarding the coronavirus. The family doctor takes into account all the recommendations in the guidelines and evaluates each patient case separately. When deciding, the doctor will take into account the patient’s symptoms, general health and all related diseases. If necessary, the family doctor will direct the patient for testing.

If a person falls ill or has any other health concerns, they should first contact their family doctor or the family doctor help line 1220.

What should I do if I get sick?

  • If you have gotten sick, call your family doctor! The family doctor will evaluate the need for testing and give medical advice. If testing is necessary, the family doctor will send the order to the laboratory and they will call you to fix a time and place of testing. Wait for the call!
  • Make sure that your family doctor has your phone number, otherwise the call centre cannot contact you.
  • Bring a personal identification document and drive in a car to the agreed upon location on time. On the basis of the document, you can give a nasopharyngeal sample at the testing location without exiting the car. Testing is done only with a digital referral of a family doctor and to preregistered persons. Do not bring along family members in the car when you come for testing.
  • If you cannot go to the testing location in a car, an appointment will be made over the phone for a tester to come to your home.
  • After you have given the sample, stay at home and wait for the results. The results will come within two working days. If the result was positive, you will get a phone call. The results will also be entered into the patient portal digilugu.ee.
  • If your result was positive, keep staying at home and follow the recommendations of your family doctor!
  • If your health worsens, contact your family doctor or call an ambulance by dialling 112.

More information: https://synlab.ee/algab-perearsti-saatekirjaga-koroonaviiruse-laiendatud-testimine/

 

Personal protection equipment – masks and similar

 

Does the employer have the right to demand that a worker wear a face mask during the virus period?

The decision on the use of personal protective equipment is preceded by a risk analysis. This means that the employer carries out a risk analysis in the course of which he will ascertain what risk factors occur in the work environment. Among other things, the biological risk factors and the possibility of contracting the coronavirus due to them are assessed. After this, it will be possible to decide what kind of measures will be taken to avoid or reduce the risks.

Personal protective equipment must be used if the results of the risk analysis show that the risk of infection cannot be avoided or reduced with the use of general protective equipment (for instance, by installing protective glasses to limit the spread of the virus) or measures of work organization (keeping a distance, the availability of disinfectants).

The employer has an obligation to notify the workers of the results of the risk assessment of the work environment, including the health risks and the measures to be taken to avoid damage to health. The employer will explain to the workers what the risk analysis determined the possible risk areas to be (an infection risk while performing a specific task at the specific company) and what are the measures to be applied. As general protective equipment and measures of work organization must be preferred to the use of personal protective equipment, the workers must be explained why the decision was made to prefer the use of personal protective equipment.

The employer must also see to it that the personal protective equipment does not create an excess burden on the wearer and would be suitable for the user to use in specific work conditions. If these requirements are not fulfilled for some workers, the worker must turn to the employer and solutions must be found in cooperation. These might include using a different type of mask or reorganizing work so that the worker could take more frequent breaks.

How long a mask can be worn is written down in the manual of the particular mask and has to be adhered to. The employer must take into consideration that there has to be enough masks for them to be changed out if necessary.

The employer has to guarantee that the worker uses the personal protective equipment according to the manufacturer's manual, from the start of the dangerous work until finishing the work, and check its usage. The worker has the obligation to use the personal protective equipment according to the manual and the instructions given by the employer.

Thus the employer does have the right to demand that the worker use personal protective equipment and the worker has the obligation to use personal protective equipment.

If, in the course of checks, it turns out that in spite of the employer's notices the worker is not using the prescribed personal protective equipment, the employer has the right to issue a warning to the worker. A warning is one of the options for an employer to organize the work in her company and react to a worker's professional behaviour and violation of his duties of employment. If a violation has occurred, the employer has to turn the worker's attention to it and give the worker a possibility to improve his behaviour. A warning can be either oral or written but the employer must be able to later prove that a warning was issued.

As a very extreme option and when a warning did not help and the worker is still violating his duties of employment, the employer has the right to an extraordinary cancellation of the employment relationship, as the worker has ignored the reasonable orders of the employer regardless of the warning, and violated his duties of employment. The employer has the right to cancel the employment contract, while following the terms of advance notice. In exceptional cases the terms of advance notice can be ignored, if the employer cannot be reasonably demanded to continue the contract until the end of the term of advance notice or until the agreed upon term is full. In this case, the employer can cancel the employment relationship within a reasonable time. What a reasonable time is must be evaluated by the employer (effective immediately, within a week or any other time). An employment contract can be cancelled with a declaration of cancellation in a format which can be reproduced in writing (for instance, an e-mail etc.) and the employer must always substantiate the cancellation.

In conclusion, it can be said that the employer has to explain to the worker why it is necessary to use personal protective equipment and then also demand its use. Explaining the requirements to the workers is important so that the worker would understand why these requirements have been enacted. If the background of the enacted requirements is not explained to the worker, the opposition to fulfilling the requirements might be greater.

If the worker does not follow the orders of the employer, the employer can warn the worker that the employment relationship with him will be cancelled if the worker does not adhere to the enacted requirements. If the worker does not start adhering to the requirements even after a warning has been issued, the employer has the option of cancelling the employment relationship.

Under what conditions may an employer require their employees to use personal protective equipment?

The decision to use personal protective equipment must be based on risk analysis. This means that the employer carries out a risk analysis which will show what dangers there are in the work environment. This includes biological dangers, and among them is the possibility of infection with the coronavirus. After that, they can decide what measures should be taken to avoid or reduce related risks. Under § 13 (2) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, an employer has the right to apply stricter health and safety requirements than those required by law.

Personal protective equipment must be used if the risk analysis shows that the danger of infection cannot be avoided or reduced only by shared means of protection such as protective glass to stop the spread of the virus, or through organisational measures such as maintaining distance and making disinfectant available.

The employer must inform their employees of the results of the risk analysis in the working environment, which includes health risks and the measures taken to avoid harm to health. The employer informs their employees of any possible points of danger identified during the risk analysis such as the risk of infection in particular companies or during particular work tasks, and what measures are being taken. As shared protective measures or organisational measures are to be preferred to personal protective equipment, the employer must explain to their employees why it was decided to use personal protective equipment.

The employer must explain why it is necessary to use personal protective equipment and to require its use. When this is explained to the employees it is important that they understand why this requirement has been introduced. If the reasons for the requirement are not explained to the employees, there may be more opposition to complying with it.

If the employee does not comply with the construction, the employer may issue a warning that they may be dismissed if they do not follow the rules. If the employee does not abide by the rules even after the warning, the employer has the right to terminate their employment.

Who is responsible for the national procurement and distribution of personal protective equipment on behalf of the Government?

The Government has placed the responsibility of the national central contracting authority for personal protection equipment to the Minister of Public Administration until December 31, 2020 - the Minister must procure, arrange for the storage and distribution of personal protection equipment. The State Support Services Centre helps the Minister in his task.

If you wearing a mask made of a wrong material, can it damage your lungs?

If you are wearing a mask for a longer period of time made of a not suitable material and it covers your nose and mouth, then microfibres, dust or other particles may enter the airways and damage them.

The mask is an additional measure for preventing the spread of the virus, but it does not replace other important methods for avoiding infection such as washing hands, cleaning surfaces, and also keeping the distance from other people.

What should I know about masks?

  • Wearing a mask reduces the spread of the virus if you wear it indoors where there are many people together. Wearing a mask reduces the chance that through social contacts, coughing and sneezing, the infection droplets will reach other people. The mask can also help a healthy person if an infected person coughs or sneezes nearby. Wearing a mask will only help to prevent the virus if other hygiene rules are also complied with and close contacts are avoided.

  • There is no reason to wear a mask at home or outdoors.

  • Protecting the mouth and nose in crowded indoor public spaces always helps. If disposable masks are not available, people who want to wear a mask can make a fabric mask at home to cover their nose and mouth in an indoor public space. The use of home-made masks reduces to some extent the risk of the infected person passing the virus on to others, and also protects partly the person wearing the mask who is not infected.

  • If the mask is home-made, it is important to remember that it is neither a personal protective equipment nor an equivalent to a medical mask.

  • In order to protect your health and prevent the spread of the virus, the most important thing is to wash your hands, comply with the hygiene rules, avoid close contacts with other persons, and comply with the 2-by-2 rule when outside the home. If you think you might have symptoms of any disease, it is important to stay home.

  • NB! An infected person with COVID-19 diagnosis or someone who is just feeling ill, should stay home, avoid contacts with other people, regardless if they have a mask or not.

Where can masks be sold and what information must accompany them?

Masks can be sold everywhere -- pharmacies, construction stores, health stores, grocery stores, online stores. The important thing is that people get the correct information -- a person must know what it is she is buying, what it protects her from and how the masks should be used.

That is why the product must be accompanied by product information (name, the standanrd it meets and information on its protective properties), an instruction manual in Estonian and information on the importer.

If there is no information on protective properties of the product, it can only be advertised as a face mask.

When would it make sense to wear a mask?

It generally does not make sense to wear a mask at home or outside. Following the 2-metre-distance rule is enough outside. At home it does not make sense to wear a mask because if one family member is infected and other family members are not permanently isolated from him, the virus will probably still find a way to infect the other family members.

It might make sense to wear a mask in public places (stores, pharmacies, medical facilities, public transport) where there are a lot of people, in order to reduce the possibility that the droplet infection released with coughing or sneezing reaches other people. Covering your nose and mouth is an appropriate precaution to take in a place like that. A mask might also be of help to a healthy person if an infected person coughs in his direction -- it might somewhat reduce the possibility of the healthy person getting sprayed with a large enough dosage of the droplet virus to get infected and sick.

What should I do if I do not have a special protective mask?

People who still want to wear a mask can make their own cloth masks. A self-made cloth mask somewhat reduces the risk of an infected person spreading the virus to others and partly also protects the wearer of the mask herself if she does not have the virus yet.

With self-made masks it should be kept in mind that this is not personal protective equipment and not the same as a medical mask.

NB! A virus carrier who has received a diagnosis or a person who has symptoms of the coronavirus must stay at home and avoid contacts with others, regardless of whether he has some kind of a mask or not.

How much does a self-made mask cost?

The most important thing about a self-made mask is the material. Depending on the material used, a self-made mask can stop 30-50% of fine particles. A person wearing a self-made mask must also take all other precautionary measures: wash her hands, keep a distance with other people. It is important to remember that every time you touch the mask with your hands, the mask gets more contaminated and the risk of infection increases. It is also important to pay attention to protecting your eyes and not rub them with your hands, as the virus can also get into your organism through the open mucous membrane.

What should I keep in mind with a self-made mask?

The material of a self-made mask gets damp very quickly. A damp mask must be changed out, at least every 2-3 hours, depending on the material. One person requires about 4-5 masks a day, for instance if she needs to go to work.

How to make a mask at home, what requirements should be considered?

If you make a mask at home, this mask is not a substitute for a medical-grade mask nor would it prevent transmission like a medical-grade mask. Wearing such a mask and using other preventative measures may reduce the risk of transmission through inhalation and it will reduce the risk of infecting other people.

Instructions on how to make a home-made mask have been published by the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority:

  • A mask must be made of a multiple-layer fabric, which can be washed at 60 degrees Celsius, and can be heat-treated.
  • Materials used in cleaning cloths and microfibre towels, a thicker dishwasher fabric, antimicrobial pillowcase are suitable for making home-made masks.
  • The material should have good breathability.
  • the mask material should not be too stiff but comfortable against the skin.
  • the mask must be fixed behind the ears; a rubber band could be used. Instead of a rubber band, a ribbon can be attached to each corner of the mask, but this mask would be more difficult to use.

The Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority instructions for making a home-made mask: https://www.ttja.ee/sites/default/files/failid/dokumendid/kuidas_valmistada_kodus_kaitsemaska_210x297_est.pdf (in Estonian, pdf).

More detailed instructions for making a home-made mask for private persons, and making a medical-grade mask for businesses are available here (in Estonian, pdf).

What rules should be observed when wearing a mask?

It is important to keep the following in mind.

  • The mask should sit on the face properly, so that the mouth and the nose are covered. If the mask has a wire to keep it in place, then the wire should sit tight around the nose, the bottom of the mask should fit under the chin.

  • If the mask has been pulled off the face, or it has been been repeatedly adjusted or touched, then the mask must be changed.

  • The maximum time period for the use of a mask bought at the pharmacy is three hours. After that it is recommended to change the mask because the top layer of the mask might have become contaminated with the virus.

  • The mask cannot be damp. A damp mask must be changed.

  • Used mask needs to be disposed to a bin with a lid or placed in a plastic bag which can be sealed. The mask must be disposed with proper care.

  • Please see the proper use of the protective mask here.

Can a self-made mask be repeatedly used?

Yes, but the cloth masks have to be made from multilayered cloth and they must be washable at high temperatures. The mask has to be washed at 60 degrees, at the lowest. NB! Used masks must be gathered into a closed plastic bag or box. Used masks should certainly not be left lying around.

What is a protective mask?

The protective mask is most usually understood as a medical protective mask, but there are other sorts of breathing protectors such as masks and respirators. Masks can be classified as personal protection or medical equipment depending on what they are used for.

Masks are classified as personal protection equipment if they protect people against threats to themselves. Surgical masks are primarily intended to protect the patient during a medical procedure so that any particles breathed out by a doctor or surgeon would not reach the patient during the process.

Masks with a filter covering the mouth and nose protect against particles in the air. Protective masks are classified by how effective their filters are and what the maximum amount that can leak through the mask is. FFP2 class masks filter 95% of particles of 0.3 µm, which is 0.0003 mm, or larger in diameter. FFP3 class masks filter at least 99% of the particles in the air. Such masks can be worn for up to eight hours.

Who is the medical mask intended for and what does it achieve?

The medical or surgical mask is a single-use mask. Surgical masks are primarily intended to protect the patient during a medical procedure so that any particles or saliva breathed out by a doctor or surgeon would not reach the patient during the process and so would not cause additional complications and illnesses.

We recommend that infected people wear surgical masks to avoid spreading particles by coughing and sneezing. A surgical mask may also give some direct protection against microscopic particles and may deter you from touching your face. Surgical masks do not give complete protection against the virus, but they do sharply reduce the risk of transmission.

Surgical masks stop offering effective protection if they become wet, and once one has been taken off it cannot be used again but must be thrown away. Neither should the mask be shared as it is for use by one person only, and once it has been taken off, even briefly, it should not be used again. Pulling the mask down to the chin or taking it off for a moment is just the same as taking it off fully, and in this case it should be thrown away and a new mask should be used.

When you take a mask off it is important to observe hygiene rules for your hands properly afterwards, because a used mask may contain particles of infection. Hands must be washed after the mask is taken off. After you have taken the mask off, you should only touch your face once you have washed your hands properly.

 

Work, work-related travel

 

What kind of working environment requirements must be guaranteed in teleworking?

In the case of teleworking, the employer must ensure that the working environment is safe (carry out a risk analysis, instruct the worker etc.). It is possible to use alternative options to carry out risk analysis of teleworking -- for instance, asking for the worker for pictures of the working place that is located in her home and/or asking the worker herself to map the risks of her working place on the basis of a provided questionnaire and forward the relevant information to the employer. For instance, if the risk analysis reveals that the worker does not have a work chair suitable for working with a display screen, the employer and worker together must find a way to use a work chair that meets the requirements.

A worker working at home must also be instructed on how to put together her working place, when to take breaks, what the possible health effects are, whether and on what conditions can she do her work outside of her home (for instance at a beach, in a park or elsewhere).

In this way the employer is ensured of the safety of the working place through risk analysis, if necessary, has found a way to improve the working place in cooperation with the worker, and has instructed the worker on what would be a good way to organise her work and working place and why this is necessary.

Health checks of workers working at home must also be organised pursuant to general procedure. This means that if the worker works with a display screen for more than half of her working time, she must be sent for a health check by an occupational health doctor within four months of starting work and then after a period indicated by the occupational health doctor.

Additionally, we recommend thinking through the procedure for a possible accident at work that might take place with a teleworking worker, including who and when must be notified of an accident having taken place.

Before concluding an agreement on teleworking, we recommend reading through the guidelines for teleworking that can be found in the Working Life portal at the link: https://www.tooelu.ee/en/Employer/Working-environment/Organizing-working-environment/Teleworking

Does the employer have the right to demand that a worker wear a face mask during the virus period?

The decision on the use of personal protective equipment is preceded by a risk analysis. This means that the employer carries out a risk analysis in the course of which he will ascertain what risk factors occur in the work environment. Among other things, the biological risk factors and the possibility of contracting the coronavirus due to them are assessed. After this, it will be possible to decide what kind of measures will be taken to avoid or reduce the risks.

Personal protective equipment must be used if the results of the risk analysis show that the risk of infection cannot be avoided or reduced with the use of general protective equipment (for instance, by installing protective glasses to limit the spread of the virus) or measures of work organization (keeping a distance, the availability of disinfectants).

The employer has an obligation to notify the workers of the results of the risk assessment of the work environment, including the health risks and the measures to be taken to avoid damage to health. The employer will explain to the workers what the risk analysis determined the possible risk areas to be (an infection risk while performing a specific task at the specific company) and what are the measures to be applied. As general protective equipment and measures of work organization must be preferred to the use of personal protective equipment, the workers must be explained why the decision was made to prefer the use of personal protective equipment.

The employer must also see to it that the personal protective equipment does not create an excess burden on the wearer and would be suitable for the user to use in specific work conditions. If these requirements are not fulfilled for some workers, the worker must turn to the employer and solutions must be found in cooperation. These might include using a different type of mask or reorganizing work so that the worker could take more frequent breaks.

How long a mask can be worn is written down in the manual of the particular mask and has to be adhered to. The employer must take into consideration that there has to be enough masks for them to be changed out if necessary.

The employer has to guarantee that the worker uses the personal protective equipment according to the manufacturer's manual, from the start of the dangerous work until finishing the work, and check its usage. The worker has the obligation to use the personal protective equipment according to the manual and the instructions given by the employer.

Thus the employer does have the right to demand that the worker use personal protective equipment and the worker has the obligation to use personal protective equipment.

If, in the course of checks, it turns out that in spite of the employer's notices the worker is not using the prescribed personal protective equipment, the employer has the right to issue a warning to the worker. A warning is one of the options for an employer to organize the work in her company and react to a worker's professional behaviour and violation of his duties of employment. If a violation has occurred, the employer has to turn the worker's attention to it and give the worker a possibility to improve his behaviour. A warning can be either oral or written but the employer must be able to later prove that a warning was issued.

As a very extreme option and when a warning did not help and the worker is still violating his duties of employment, the employer has the right to an extraordinary cancellation of the employment relationship, as the worker has ignored the reasonable orders of the employer regardless of the warning, and violated his duties of employment. The employer has the right to cancel the employment contract, while following the terms of advance notice. In exceptional cases the terms of advance notice can be ignored, if the employer cannot be reasonably demanded to continue the contract until the end of the term of advance notice or until the agreed upon term is full. In this case, the employer can cancel the employment relationship within a reasonable time. What a reasonable time is must be evaluated by the employer (effective immediately, within a week or any other time). An employment contract can be cancelled with a declaration of cancellation in a format which can be reproduced in writing (for instance, an e-mail etc.) and the employer must always substantiate the cancellation.

In conclusion, it can be said that the employer has to explain to the worker why it is necessary to use personal protective equipment and then also demand its use. Explaining the requirements to the workers is important so that the worker would understand why these requirements have been enacted. If the background of the enacted requirements is not explained to the worker, the opposition to fulfilling the requirements might be greater.

If the worker does not follow the orders of the employer, the employer can warn the worker that the employment relationship with him will be cancelled if the worker does not adhere to the enacted requirements. If the worker does not start adhering to the requirements even after a warning has been issued, the employer has the option of cancelling the employment relationship.

If a worker gets infected with COVID-19 at the workplace, does that qualify as an accident at work?

An accident at work is the health damage or death of a worker that occurred while carrying out a work task given by the employer, or while performing other work with his permission, while on a break that is counted as part of working time or during other activities performed in the interests of the employer. This means that an accident at work is usually a sudden personal injury, for instance a fall, or a poisoning that has occurred as a result of inhaling chemicals.

Contracting the coronavirus is not considered to be an accident at work if it is not causally linked to the worker’s work or work environment (for instance, an office worker getting infected).

Contracting the coronavirus might be a work-related illness if the worker has become infected due to the nature of her work or due to biological risk factors occurring in her work environment (for instance, the staff dealing with infected persons).

In case of a suspicion that the infection might be due to work, i.e. while the infected person was carrying out work tasks, a doctor needs to be notified of this. The family doctor or another doctor who suspects that the worker might have an occupational disease will refer the person to an occupational health doctor for a diagnosis. The occupational health doctor will ascertain the health condition of the worker and will collect data on the workers working conditions and nature of work. The decision on whether the disease has been caused by work or not will be made by the occupational health doctor.

May the employer notify workers and clients if a worker or workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19?

An employer must notify its staff of COVID-19 cases and protective measures (how clients and workers are protected at the company). An employer must limit these notifications to only the necessary information.

It is not allowed to reveal the name of the infected person to other workers and clients without cause. The name of the infected person may be revealed only if it is necessary to prevent further infections (for instance, to notify colleagues who worked in close contact with the infected person). The infected person must be notified that information on his disease is also being shared with other workers. An employer must give only a minimum amount of necessary information on the person and take the human dignity of the infected worker into account.

Under what conditions may an employer require their employees to use personal protective equipment?

The decision to use personal protective equipment must be based on risk analysis. This means that the employer carries out a risk analysis which will show what dangers there are in the work environment. This includes biological dangers, and among them is the possibility of infection with the coronavirus. After that, they can decide what measures should be taken to avoid or reduce related risks. Under § 13 (2) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, an employer has the right to apply stricter health and safety requirements than those required by law.

Personal protective equipment must be used if the risk analysis shows that the danger of infection cannot be avoided or reduced only by shared means of protection such as protective glass to stop the spread of the virus, or through organisational measures such as maintaining distance and making disinfectant available.

The employer must inform their employees of the results of the risk analysis in the working environment, which includes health risks and the measures taken to avoid harm to health. The employer informs their employees of any possible points of danger identified during the risk analysis such as the risk of infection in particular companies or during particular work tasks, and what measures are being taken. As shared protective measures or organisational measures are to be preferred to personal protective equipment, the employer must explain to their employees why it was decided to use personal protective equipment.

The employer must explain why it is necessary to use personal protective equipment and to require its use. When this is explained to the employees it is important that they understand why this requirement has been introduced. If the reasons for the requirement are not explained to the employees, there may be more opposition to complying with it.

If the employee does not comply with the construction, the employer may issue a warning that they may be dismissed if they do not follow the rules. If the employee does not abide by the rules even after the warning, the employer has the right to terminate their employment.

What considerations should be taken into account when the employees are returning from remote work to their places of work?

Returning to the working environment should be done in a safe manner.

Various precautions to prevent the spread of viruses continue to be important:

  • preference for remote work,
  • allowing people to return to work gradually,
  • reducing the physical exposure of employees,
  • airing and proper cleaning of rooms,
  • the employees must stay at home when sick.

When returning to the working environment you should bear in mind the following:

  • when you are sick, stay home! Ask sick employees to stay home!
  • before allowing people to return to work, find out how employees can be exposed to the virus in the working environment and take action to mitigate risks.
  • consider how to protect the employees belonging to risk groups.
  • If necessary, consult with the Labour Inspectorate's working environment consultant or occupational health doctor on how to make the working environment safer.
  • discuss changes planned with employees in the working environment and, if necessary, instruct them before returning to work.
  • re-arrange the working environment so that working places would be separated from each other, and the least possible number of employees would be in the same room.
  • Resume work gradually, if possible, prefer remote working, and holding meetings online.
  • Disperse break times so that there are not many employees gathering in the break rooms at the same time.
  • pay attention to hygiene rules, hand washing and the availability of disinfectants at entrances and exits, near movement routes and near meeting and recreation rooms.
  • arrange work in such a way that the same tools and work surfaces are used by only one employee and assure regular cleaning.
  • clean and air both working and resting spaces, assure proper ventilation or airing of premises.
  • if necessary, issue personal protective equipment to employees and instruct how to use them.

What should be done if the parental benefit ended during the emergency situation but it is not possible to return to work?

When the parental benefit ends, the parent can end the parental leave and return to work. If this is not possible, the circumstances need to be differentiatied according to cause.

If the employer

  • has no work to provide, he must still allow the employee to return to work and pay her wages even if no work is provided. The employer may reduce the wages but the employee has the right to decline this. If the employer has no work to give in a situation provided by §37 of the Employment Contract Act and the employee cancels the contract, the employee has a right to a redundancy compensation. If the employer does not agree to a reduction of wages, she has the right to cancel the contract and the employer must pay compensation. More information in §35 or 37 of the Employment Contract Act

  • wishes to make the employee redundant, parents raising a child under three are in a preferential situation. People on parental leave can be made redundant only if the employer stops operating (e.g. a bankruptcy is declared).

What should be taken in consideration by my employer during the current situation?

It is of utmost importance that the workplaces use disinfectants.

In the offices:

  • it is recommended for people to keep physical distance from each other,
  • it is important to air the rooms regularly,
  • clean the surfaces regularly.

See here recommendations by the Health Board for efficient cleaning and disinfection.

Information regarding safe return to the offices from working remotely is provided by the Ministry of Social Affaires guidelines here.

People should be sent home from work, if

  • they are ill
  • might have been in contact with an infected person,
  • belong to a risk group.

Please note! Employees arriving from abroad are required to stay home for two weeks and monitor their health carefully. More information on the requirements of self-isolation, and specific countries can be found on the [website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs] (https://vm.ee/et/teave-riikide-ja-karantiininouete-kohta-euroopast-saabujatele)

Both the employee and the employer need to agree to the changes in working conditions.

Can I refuse to go to work?

An employee with a work contract has an obligation to work according to the agreed conditions.

However, if the employee is returning from a country with higher ratio of infected persons, then the Estonian Health Board recommends staying home for 14 days. Information about countries with higher infection ratios is available on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This does not automatically mean that the employee is not required to go to work. The employee must inform the employer of their return to Estonia and agree how best to arrange work.

The employer and the employee have various options for coming to an arrangement:

  • remote work (work from home),
  • unpaid leave,
  • application of the e § 35 and § 37 of the Employment Act,
  • use of mandated annual leave. If an annual leave schedule has been pre-arranged, changes in annual leave times can only be made if mutually agreed. If the employee does not wish to use the employee’s mandated annual leave, another solution must be found.

Please also refer to the Employment Contracts Act: https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/112072014146?leiaKehtiv.

Can I refuse a secondment or a business trip abroad?

The employer is obligated to assess work-related risks when he sends an empolyee to a work-related trip abroad. Therefore, it is primarily the obligation of the employer to assess the risks and take the decision on whether it is possible to avoid sending the employee to a trip.

The employee has the right to refuse or suspend work that

  • endangers his or other persons' health, or
  • would not allow following environmental safety regulations,

by immediately notifying the employer or his representative and the work safety representative.

Thus, if you find that you would be endangering your life or health by going to a work-related trip abroad, you do have the right to refuse to go.

See more in §14(5) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/520032019007/consolide

If and when can § 37 of the Employment Act be used with reference to a reduction in salary for three months, due to economic circumstances beyond the employer’s control?

The spread of Coronavirus is one of the circumstances that allow the employer to reduce the workload and the salary of the employee for three months unilaterally according to § 37 of the Employment Act, if paying the agreed salary is an unreasonably heavy burden for the employer. It is permitted to reduce the salary to the minimum wage as determined by the Government of Estonia (584 Euros per month or 3.48 Euros per hour).

A reduction in the salary is permitted according to § 37 of the Employment Act only under the following conditions:

  • If the employer is unable to provide work to the employee as previously agreed due to economic circumstances (this doesn’t include seasonal changes in amount of work);
  • If payment of the agreed salary is an unreasonable burden on the employer. It is not permitted to reduce the salary if the employer does not have enough work for the employee to do, but still has enough liquidity to pay the salary; in this case it is interpreted that there is no real need to reduce the salary.

How will § 37 of the Employment Act be implemented in the case of salary reduction? Can the employee terminate the work contract?

In order to reduce the salary the employer must investigate if it is possible to offer different work to the employee. If there is no alternative work, or the employee does not agree to the work, the employer must inform the trustee of the employees, or in case there is no trustee the employees directly, at least fourteen days in advance. Employees must be given an opportunity to be involved in the decision. The employee must present their opinion within seven days.

If the employee does not agree to a reduced salary, the employee has the right to terminate the work contract, and this must be announced a minimum of five working days in advance. In the event of termination of the work contract, the employee will receive one month’s average salary as compensation, in addition to the contractual final pay, which consists of earned salary and unused vacation pay.

In what cases is redundancy an option?

If it is clear that the situation will not improve and the employer is not able to provide work nor pay a reduced salary, redundancy is an option. Redundancy is an extraordinary termination of the work contract by the employer due to economic reasons, i.e. if following the agreed work conditions is impossible because of a reduced amount of work or the rearrangement of work. Redundancy also happens, when the employer terminates its operation or files for bankruptcy. The employer must present employees with a written termination notice and explain the reasons for termination.

The employer must follow announcement terms according to § 97 point 2 of the Employment Act. The terms are related to the length of the work contract. The employer must announce redundancy at the following times when the employment has been working for the employer:

  • less than one year – minimum 15 calendar days;
  • one to five years – minimum 30 calendar days;
  • five to ten years – minimum 60 calendar days;
  • ten and more years – minimum 90 calendar days.

The employer must consider that if the termination is announced with disregard of these terms, the employer must pay compensation. In that case the employer will have to pay the average salary for the work days that are within the announcement term that was disregarded. If the work contract ends due to redundancy the employer must pay a redundancy compensation of one month’s average salary in addition to final salary.

 

Travelling abroad from Estonia

 

I have health insurance. What do I need to know about health insurance when travelling in the European Union?

If you are going on holiday, you should take your European Health Insurance Card with you, as it is important if you have a health problem abroad. People from Estonia who have the European Health Insurance Card can get the medical help they need in the European Union and also in Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland on the same terms as insured people who live in those countries.

The card can be ordered digitally from the state portal eesti.ee and is free of charge.

To get medical treatment, you should present your European Health Insurance Card or a replacement certificate for it and an identity document at a medical institution. The card only entitles you to medical assistance at public healthcare institutions.

NB! Please note that the European Health Insurance Card does not necessarily cover all the costs of the medical care you need. You must pay yourself for visitation fees, bed fees, co-payments for medicines, translation costs, etc at the prices of the country you are in. The card does not cover the cost of international transport or the costs of a private doctor. We recommend that when you travel you should sign a travel insurance contract with an insurance company to cover your costs, depending on the insurance conditions.

For more information see: https://www.haigekassa.ee/en/kontaktpunkt/healthcare-eu-and-elsewhere/european-health-insurance-card

I wish to travel abroad. How can I get information about entry to other countries?

Information about entry conditions to other countries can be found on the website Reisi Targalt (Travel Smart): https://reisitargalt.vm.ee/

When travelling, it is advisable to observe the following:

  • Before planning a trip, check the information about the infection rate of the country of destination on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Find information on possible travel restrictions in the country of destination - for information check the Reisi Targalt website, ReOpen portal of the European Union, and for further information contact the representation of your country of destination.
  • Register your trip on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Reisi Targalt website, so we could inform you about possible travel restrictions.
  • Follow the recommendations of the Health Board for a safe flight (PDF) to maintain your health and the health of other people - if you have any symptoms, delay the trip and contact your family doctor.
  • Purchase travel insurance and familiarise yourself with all the conditions (including any travel disruptions caused by COVID-19).
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities in the country of stay and find out about possible new restrictions.
  • Follow the rules in force in Estonia when returning from your trip, monitor your health condition and contact your family doctor in case of suspicion of the virus.
  • We draw attention to the fact that any country may change the conditions for entry and stay in the country with a short notice. For more detailed information on the conditions of the country of destination, we recommend contacting the foreign representation or the relevant authorities of that country.

Will maritime traffic continue between Estonia and Finland or Estonia and Sweden?

Maritime traffic continues partially, but you should always check with the shipping line if this specific route is operational.

May I cross the border?

It is not advisable to travel abroad right now, except to the European countries where the rate of infection per 100,000 persons is 16 or less over the period of previous 14 days, and when returning from such a trip it is not obligatory to remain in quarantine.

When travelling, take the following into account:

  • Before travelling to a foreign country get to know the conditions for entering the country of destination: find out whether you will be allowed into the country. When in doubt, contact the Border Guard /Immigration Services of the destination country.

  • If you have to travel through any other country to reach your destination, find out the transit rules of those countries as well.

  • Take into account that in order to limit the spread of the corona virus, the states can unexpectedly restrict the conditions for entering their country and travelling within that country. You might have to remain in quarantine in a foreign country and getting home could be very complicated, sometimes impossible.

Exceptionally, could an Estonian citizen or resident with a job in Russia cross the border for work?

No, this is not currently possible.

The Russian border is generally closed for entry to foreigners. People with a Russian residence permit or Russian citizens living in the European Union may enter Russia once.

The ban on entry does not apply to drivers of international goods vehicles, pilots, crews of sea and river boats, crew on trains travelling internationally, people issued visas because of the death of a relative, and people who reside permanently in the Russian Federation. Entry is also permitted for foreign athletes and coaches, and on one occasion only for people travelling for medical care or to care for sick relatives, and highly qualified specialists.

Further information on crossing the Russian border is available from the information line of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs +7(495) 587 8860, +7(499) 244 1977, +7 (499) 244 1988 and +7(499) 244 2847.

 

Crossing the Estonian border

 

Who is allowed to enter Estonia?

People who are allowed to enter Estonia:

  • All who hold Estonian citizenship, have a residence permit or a right of residence in Estonia, or a permanent residence in Estonia according to the population register, regardless of whether they have any signs of disease or not.

  • Citizens and residents of the European Union, the European Economic Area countries, the Swiss Confederation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland or the Principality of Andorra, the Principality of Monaco, the Republic of San Marino and the Vatican City State (the Holy See), as well as persons holding a long-stay visa who show no signs of disease and their family members who show no signs of disease.

  • All who arrive to the Republic of Estonia from the European Union or the Schengen Area countries or from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland if they show no signs of disease.

  • Persons who hold the citizenship, residence permit or right of residence of the Republic of Latvia or the Republic of Lithuania, or whose permanent residence according to the population register is in the Republic of Latvia or the Republic of Lithuania, and they show no signs of disease.

  • Persons who hold the citizenship, residence permit or right of residence of the Republic of Finland, or whose permanent residence according to the population register is in the Republic of Finland, and who show no signs of disease if:

    1. Their purpose of arrival in Estonia is to work or fulfil other contractual obligations
    2. They study at an educational institution registered in Estonia
    3. They arrive in Estonia for unavoidable family reasons, especially funerals, weddings, cases of illness and meeting close relatives
  • Foreign nationals from third countries who arrive in Estonia for work or study if they show no signs of disease.

Self-isolation is mandatory for everyone showing symptoms. Self-isolation for individuals without any symptoms depends on the country from which they departed or countries through which they transited. Information on countries and self-isolation requirements for people arriving in Estonia can be found on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If a person arrives from or transits through a country that is not listed on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or is listed with red, he or she must self-isolate.

From 1 September, those returning to Estonia from COVID-19 risk countries will have the opportunity to be tested for coronavirus at the airport and port in order to shorten the period of self-isolation and allow them to return to work sooner. People are required to self-isolate completely until they receive their test results. In the case of a negative test result, a person must stay in limited self-isolation for the first seven days, which means that he or she can go to work and, for example, a shop, but must avoid unnecessary contacts. A second test must be performed no earlier than 7 days after the results of the first test, and if the results of this test are also negative, a person can resume their daily life.

I would like to fly to or from Estonia in two weeks. How do I know if my flight will actually fly?

It is currently safest to plan a flight to or from Estonia one week in advance at most, as beyond that there is no certainty that the infection level of the given country will not exceed the permitted level. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications looks at the infection rates for countries each Friday afternoon and then opens or closes flight corridors accordingly.

The current restriction on flight corridors applies until the end of August and allows travel corridors to be opened with countries where the infection rate has been below 25 per 100,000 people over the past 14 days. The government may extend these restrictions.

The list of countries permitted is updated every Friday afternoon, so the list of countries that you can fly to directly from Estonia can change each week. More information on the list of countries can be found here: https://www.mkm.ee/et/uudised/info-lennupiirangute-kohta

Who should I contact if I want to change the contact details on the confirmation of compliance with movement restriction?

If a person wishes the Police and Border Guard Board (PBGB) to review the imposition of the restriction of movement, or wishes to change the contact details on the confirmation sheet, they must contact the PBGB. To this end, please send the following to ppa[at]politsei[dot]ee:

  • your contact details (first and last name, personal identification code, telephone number, address)
  • time and place of border crossing
  • explanation (e.g. justification for an exemption)

What does restriction of freedom of movement mean?

If you have tested positive for corona virus you will be subject to restrictions on movement and you may not leave your place of residence from when you are diagnosed with the coronavirus until you have fully recovered. You may only leave if your home is told to do so by a healthcare worker or a police officer or for essential reasons if you are life or health are in danger. The families of people who have tested positive are subject to the same restrictions on movement.

Exceptional cases when it is permitted to leave the home if there are no signs of illness are:

  • if a member of the family is a healthcare worker or providing other services that are vital in the emergency
  • to get essential supplies in the immediate local area when there is no other way of getting them. In this case all restrictions on movement and public spaces must be followed
  • if there has been no contact at all within the home with the person who has been diagnosed with coronavirus
  • to spend time outdoors if all the earlier restrictions on movement in public spaces are followed

Who has to remain in self-isolation for 14 days after entering Estonia?

All persons with the symptoms of the disease have an obligation to self-isolate.

The obligation of self-isolation for persons without any symptoms of the disease depends on the country of departure or transit.

Information about the restrictions on countries and freedom of movement for arrivals from European countries is available on the page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: https://vm.ee/et/uudised/uuendatud-teave-riikide-ja-eneseisolatsiooninouete-kohta-euroopast-saabujatele-21-juuni.

Staying in self-isolation means that a person cannot leave their place of stay within 14 days, except at the order of a health care worker or police officer or for essential trips. For example, you can leave your home if your life is in danger or you need medical care, you need to renew food supplies, buy essential goods, purchase medicines. In all these cases, contact with other people must be avoided. Therefore, you cannot go to work or go hiking on a populated hiking trail. But you can go running or ride a bike, for example, if you do it without coming into contact with other people.

What is the confirmation of restriction on freedom of movement?

The restriction on freedom of movement confirmation is a document that a person entering Estonia signs at the border. The signature is confirmation that the person is

  • aware of the restriction on freedom of movement and
  • obligated to stay at their residence or place of stay for 14 calendar days.

The person signing the document also includes their personal and contact information, as well as the address of the residence or place of stay. If the address provided at the border changes during the obligation to not leave that address, the Police and Border Control should be notified by e-mail at: ppa[at]politsei[dot]ee

The restriction of freedom of movement (self-isolation) imposed by the Order of the Government of the Republic applies regardless of whether the confirmation document was signed upon arrival in Estonia.

Will I be turned back from the border if I am ill?

If you are an Estonian citizen or resident, you will not be turned back from the border even if you have symptoms of the disease. Also, those foreign citizens, whose family members reside in Estonia, will also be allowed to enter the county.

At the border

  • your travel documents will be checked, as well as your reason for entering the country and
  • the state of your health will be visually checked.

How do the police monitor compliance with the restriction on freedom of movement?

During the emergency situation the police was responsible for ensuring compliance with the 2+2 rule. As the emergency situation ended, the government assigned this responsibility to the Health Board by order of the government. The virus has not disappeared at all, and the police now provides official assistance to the Health Board in monitoring compliance with restrictions on movement. This means that when police officers see the movement restrictions set be the government being violated in the course of their normal work, they talk with people and explain the risks involved in public gatherings. If the infringement continues, the police inform the Health Board, which may, if necessary, who can issue a prescriptive order and impose a penalty payment.

If the restriction of movement has been established, is it necessary also to avoid contacts with family members?

The purpose of the restriction on freedom of movement is to avoid possible contacts of an infected person with other people in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus. During the 14-day isolation period, it would be advisable to maintain distance with the family members or roommates.

I bought a puppy from a neighbouring country. Is it possible that the seller of the puppy brings the animal to the border crossing point of the neighbouring country and I pick it up at the Estonian border?

No, it is not possible to organise the receipt of the animal this way, as the officials of the Police and Border Guard Board are not allowed to bring any animals across the border. You will therefore have to find another solution or wait for the movement restrictions to be lifted.

The Police and Border Guard Board will allow you to leave Estonia, in case you decide to go to the neighbouring country to get the animal. However, entry into another country may be subject to restrictions. If necessary, contact the border guard of the neighbouring country and apply for a special permit to enter the country. You can also ask a foreign embassy or a foreign representation for further information on entry conditions and applying for a special permit.

If the seller of the animal wishes to come to Estonia, they must apply for a special permit to enter Estonia from the Police and Border Guard Board. You can find more information on the website https://www.politsei.ee/en/instructions/emergency-situation

 

Travelling to Estonia - Estonian citizens and residents

 

Who is required to self-isolate when entering the country?

Self-isolation is mandatory for everyone showing symptoms.

Self-isolation for individuals without any symptoms depends on the country from which they departed or countries through which they transited. Information on countries and self-isolation requirements for people arriving in Estonia can be found on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If a person arrives from or transits through a country that is not listed on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or is listed with red, he or she must self-isolate.

From 1 September, those returning to Estonia from COVID-19 risk countries will have the opportunity to be tested for coronavirus at the airport and port in order to shorten the period of self-isolation and allow them to return to work sooner. People are required to self-isolate completely until they receive their test results. In the case of a negative test result, a person must stay in limited self-isolation for the first seven days, which means that he or she can go to work and, for example, a shop, but must avoid unnecessary contacts. A second test must be performed no earlier than 7 days after the results of the first test, and if the results of this test are also negative, a person can resume their daily life.

From which third countries it is possible to travel to Estonia at the moment?

It is not possible to travel from third countries to Estonia for tourism purposes. Studying and working fall under exemptions, in which case travel from third countries to Estonia is permitted. Exceptions may also apply to third countries in the special list of countries of the Council of Europe.

I am currently in a foreign country, and I would like to come back home but I have no money. Tickets are also expensive. What can I do?

First, contact your family and friends. If they cannot help you, you should contact your local government in Estonia.

If you cannot find a solution, call +372 5301 9999, but please remember that state support is only possible in cases of extreme emergency and any assistance is a loan, not a gift. Any money given to help you must be repaid within 90 days after you return to Estonia.

I managed to get plane tickets back to Estonia. What should I consider when I travel back to Estonia now? Should I do something differently than usual?

You should remember that although you may have your ticket, flights are still being cancelled or postponed. For this reason you should make sure that the flight will still take off and whether the schedule has changed.

You should also check whether any additional requirements have been introduced such as additional documents to prove test results for the virus for example.

You should be certain to make sure what the requirements for transit countries are. You can find this information from www.reisitargalt.vm.ee.

On the day of the flight you should get to the airport early and be among the first to check in for the flight. No less important is whether you should remain in self-isolation after yo arrive in Estonia from where you are. You can find information on this from the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I am in the US, my visa/ESTA is about to expire but I cannot find flights back. What should I do?

If you are in the US with a visa, you have to fill out forms I-539 and I-912 (both can be found at [https://www.uscis.gov/i-539-addresse] with explanations as to why you could not leave in time. If the date of validity of your visa is about to expire in the coming days, you should contact the US Citizenship and Immigration Services [https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/find-a-uscis-office.]

 

Travelling to Estonia – foreigners

 

Which foreign nationals are allowed to enter Estonia as an exception?

As an exception, the following foreign nationals who do not show any signs of illness may enter Estonia:

  • employees at a foreign diplomatic representation or a consular office in Estonia, their family members, or foreign nationals arriving to Estonia in the framework of international military cooperation
  • members of a foreign delegation arriving in Estonia for a work meeting at the invitation of a state authority or local government authority
  • persons who are directly involved with transporting goods or raw materials, including loading of goods or raw materials
  • providers of healthcare or other services necessary for solving the emergency situation
  • persons who are directly involved in the international carriage of goods or passengers, including crew members serving on an international means of transport and persons performing repairs, warranty, or maintenance services on a means of transport
  • persons who provide services to groups of passengers and are directly involved in the provision of passenger transport services
  • persons whose purpose of arrival in Estonia is to ensure the performance of an essential service
  • persons whose arrival in Estonia is related to the maintenance, repair, warranty or information and communication technology of equipment of an enterprise operating in Estonia, where this is necessary to ensure the operation of the enterprise
  • persons who are immediately passing through the territory of Estonia in order to reach their country of residence
  • persons whose direct descendant or ascendant, relative or spouse is an Estonian national, holder of an Estonian residence permit or the right of residence
  • performers at a public event or the organisers of the event, persons who participate in a sports competition as athletes, or are directly involved in organising a sports competition or event that has been authorised by the Health Board
  • foreign nationals who have received a special permit to enter the country from the Police and Border Guard Board. The purpose of the special permit is to enable third-country nationals to apply for authorisation to cross the external border for the purpose of entering Estonia. Especially for family reasons, e.g. funerals, weddings, illness of a family member, an essential meeting with a family member, etc. The application must be sent to ppa[at]politsei[dot]ee. The application for permission to cross the border in exceptional circumstances can be found on the website of the Police and Border Guard Board: https://www.politsei.ee/en/instructions/emergency-situation

A foreign national who has been admitted to Estonia on the basis of a special permit is subject to a general restriction on the freedom of movement and may not leave his or her permanent residence or place of stay within 14 days. From 1 September, those returning to Estonia from COVID-19 risk countries will have the opportunity to be tested for coronavirus at the airport and port in order to shorten the period of self-isolation and allow them to return to work sooner. People are required to self-isolate completely until they receive their test results. In the case of a negative test result, a person must stay in limited self-isolation for the first seven days, which means that he or she can go to work and, for example, a shop, but must avoid unnecessary contacts. A second test must be performed no earlier than 7 days after the results of the first test, and if the results of this test are also negative, a person can resume their daily life.

Who is required to self-isolate when entering the country?

Self-isolation is mandatory for everyone showing symptoms.

Self-isolation for individuals without any symptoms depends on the country from which they departed or countries through which they transited. Information on countries and self-isolation requirements for people arriving in Estonia can be found on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If a person arrives from or transits through a country that is not listed on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or is listed with red, he or she must self-isolate.

From 1 September, those returning to Estonia from COVID-19 risk countries will have the opportunity to be tested for coronavirus at the airport and port in order to shorten the period of self-isolation and allow them to return to work sooner. People are required to self-isolate completely until they receive their test results. In the case of a negative test result, a person must stay in limited self-isolation for the first seven days, which means that he or she can go to work and, for example, a shop, but must avoid unnecessary contacts. A second test must be performed no earlier than 7 days after the results of the first test, and if the results of this test are also negative, a person can resume their daily life.

Who can apply for a visa at Estonian representations?

Estonian foreign representations that process visa applications and are located in one of the countries included in the special list of countries of the Council of Europe, it is possible to apply for a visa for visiting Estonia for all travel purposes, including tourism. See the list of countries here: https://vm.ee/et/teave-riikide-ja-karantiininouete-kohta-euroopast-saabujatele (scroll down).

In other Estonian foreign representations which process visa applications, it is possible to apply for a visa for people who come to Estonia for work or study or who are allowed to enter Estonia. See the list here: https://www.kriis.ee/et/reisimine-eestisse-valisriikide-kodanikud

From which countries it is possible to come to Estonia to study or work?

It is possible to work and study in Estonia coming from all the countries of the world. A mandatory self-insulation requirement applies for people coming from a country with an infection rate of 16 or more. An overview of infection rates is established and published on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Could a person of Russian nationality working in Estonia but living in Russia (incl. people of Estonian and Russian dual citizenship), exceptionally, be able to cross the Estonian-Russian border for work purposes?

There are no derogations for crossing the Estonian-Russian border and persons crossing the border must take into account the 14-day movement restriction in both Estonia and Russia. It is not possible to commute to work and back across the border.

 

Cargo shipments

 

When importing the goods, a problem occurred with original certificates. Can I use a copy of the original during the crisis?

Yes, goods may also be imported into the European Union using the copy of the certificate as a temporary crisis measure.

How to forward a copy depends if the third country outside the EU has access to EU TRACES system.

  • If they have access, the copy can be forwarded using TRACES.
  • If they do not have access, the copy has to be e-mailed from the e-mail address of the competent authority of the third country directly to the e-mail address of the border inspection point. This list of acceptable border crossing points is on the website of the European Commission DG Sante, and they are classified as follows:

The European Commission has informed the EU external trade partners and embassies of this possibility, and the similar arrangements have been requested from the third countries because many EU exporters have had problems with submitting the original certificates.

How is medical care guaranteed during the time of the virus if I have health insurance in Estonia but am currently in another European Union member state?

People who have health insurance in Estonia and are currently in the European Union, the European Economic Area or Switzerland will be given necessary medical care on equal terms with people living in those countries. Necessary medical care is guaranteed in the case of the coronavirus as well. The need for treatment must be medically justified and this decision is made by a doctor. In order to get necessary medical aid, a person has to carry a European Health Insurance Card or a replacement certificate of the card. If a person does not have the card with him or he has not applied for the European Health Insurance Card or its replacement certificate before the trip, we ask that he apply for a replacement certificate of the European Health Insurance Card immediately upon arriving at the hospital or a doctor. You can find more information at the web page of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund

Is unlicensed carriage of goods permitted, what kind of accompanying documents are necessary, and would the quarantine obligation apply?

International carriage of goods is permitted, including unlicensed carriage.

Commercial carriage of goods must be accompanied by the following documents per vehicle:

  • a certified copy of the Community authorisation granted to the carrier of an EU or EEA Member State (exemptions for international carriage are provided for in Road Transportation Act Art 6(1) – for example, carriage in the EU at own expense);
  • a consignment accompanying document (CMR or so-called “loading list”);
  • a transport authorisation or CEMT licence under an international agreement, if goods are transported to a third country from Estonia, or from a third country to Estonia by a carrier from Austria, Bulgaria, Spain, Croatia, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Germany, Finland, Hungary, Germany;
  • need to certify when entering with an unladen vehicle the grounds and destination of the carriage (e.g. a transport haulage order).

In the case of own-expense carriage of goods the driver must be in possession of documentation which proves that this cargo is owned by the operator organising the carriage of goods, or the company has purchased, sold, repaired, mined, or processed the goods. This carriage of goods needs to follow also other requirements laid down in Article 1(5)(d) of Regulation (EC) No 1072/2009 of the EU, but in the emergency situation the verification of these requirements would constitute too much of a burden.

Persons directly involved in the carriage of goods are exempt from movement restriction.

Does a truck driver arriving to Estonia with a shipment of goods need to spend 14 days in isolation at home or can he return abroad immediately?

He can return abroad immediately, as the 14-day restriction on movement does not apply to transporters of goods or raw materials, and persons involved with international haulage of goods and passengers. If the driver is symptomatic, he must remain in isolation at home for 14 days and contact his family doctor.

More information from the order of the person in charge of the emergency situation: https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/517032020001/consolide.

 

Sailing

 

What should I know about the port border control?

As border controls at the internal borders of the European Union have been restored on a temporary basis, the obligation of border controls also applies to small vessels if they wish to enter a port of a Member State. Master of a recreational vessel must inform the nearest port police authority or a port authority of their arrival in Estonia (crossing the State border), who will then inform the nearest port police authority (Tallinn border inspection point tel. +372 619 1260), at least one hour before entering or leaving the port. The Police will carry out the border control based on the request.
On arrival to Estonia (crossing the State border), the recreational vessel must go to the border inspection post of the port open for international traffic, as border control at the internal border has been temporarily restored. The list of ports open for international traffic are published in the State Gazette. https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/101062018007

The police have the right to control all the vessels at sea when guarding the state borders to ensure compliance with the border regime and compliance with the emergency requirements. Anyone who crosses the territorial sea border (regardless of the direction of their journey) is subject to control of the border regime. It is recommended not to travel abroad. Before leaving the port, establish whether the foreign country will allow you to enter their territory (in general, no one is currently allowed to enter another country, access is granted only in exceptional circumstances). Those who do not benefit from exemptions from movement restrictions are not allowed to enter Estonia (e.g. a Finnish national who wants to come to Estonia to perform small vessel maintenance).

 

Public transport within Estonia

 

How can avoid the virus when using public transportation?

If you need to use public transportation, please observe the following:

  • if possible, wear a mask.
  • If you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth with a tissue or your sleeve.
  • Do not touch handles or any other surfaces with bare hands.
  • Do not touch your face.
  • Disinfect your hands as soon as possible after you have left the public transportation.
  • If possible, keep 2 metres away from other passengers.

Should I take a taxi?

Yes, taxis are an option. If you have the chance, ask the taxi driver before getting in the car if they have disinfected the vehicle and aired it out between passengers. Remind the driver to disinfect and air out the car after your ride.

How will the health of bus drivers and passengers be protected on regional bus routes?

In order to protect the health of the bus drivers and limit the spread of the virus, people must enter a regional public transportation from the middle or from the back door (if there is a door at the back). Passengers do not need to contact the bus driver, as they do not need to buy a ticket also in these counties where the transport has not been free of charge before.

How is it possible to avoid the transmission of the virus on trains?

All Elron travel attendants regularly disinfect their hands to avoid transmission of the virus.

In order to avoid direct contact with the staff, we recommend buying your ticket online in advance from the Elron sales environment. You can also purchase a ticket aboard the train from the ticket machine using the Elron travel card.

If possible, the 2-by-2 rule must be observed also on board the train.

Which transport connections are running between Russia – to St. Petersburg, Moscow. Are trains and buses running?

Taking into the spread of the coronavirus, the departures of the Tallinn-St.Peterburg-Moscow train have been temporarily suspended as of March 20, and tickets already purchased can be returned. The decision to stop the train traffic was taken by the Russian Railways to prevent the spread of the virus and to ensure the safety of passengers.

The Estonian Railway invites passengers who purchased the ticket to contact the customer service of the company Go Rail ticketing agency at: +372 631 0044, e-mail: traveld[at]gorail[dot]ee, www.gorail.ee/en.

According to information from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, carriers have also stopped service on long-distance lines headed to Russia.

 

Pre-school institutions

 

Do children need to be left at kindergartens or nurseries outside the building of the kindergarten?

There is no obligation to do this.

It is most important that children, parents and staff who show signs of illness should not enter kindergartens or other childcare institutions.

How the work of kindergartens and nurseries is organised is decided by the management, and the head of the kindergarten works with local authorities to find the best solution for minimising risks.

What rules must be followed in kindergartens in order to reduce the risk of infection among the staff and the children?

The opening hours and organisation of work in kindergartens and nurseries is decided by the management. Local authorities must ensure that there is a kindergarten place for all parents who want it for children aged from 18 months to seven years who live in that municipality or town with at least one parent. with the consent of the parent, the place in kindergarten for a child aged from 18 months to three years may be replaced by the municipality with a babysitting service.

The management of the kindergarten or nursery decides how the work is organised, and the head of the kindergarten works with local authorities to find the best solutions. Closing kindergartens has a major impact on lifestyles in general, and so it is important to keep kindergartens and nurseries open even when the virus is spreading widely.

Teachers or nannies in childcare institutions have the right and the duty to refuse entry to children and parents showing signs of illness. Children are generally affected by covid-19 only very mildly, therefore close attention must be paid to monitoring their health and signs of illness.

The Health Board has sent a guide to childcare institutions, which must be followed for the protection of the health of children and kindergarten employees. It gives precise instructions on all measures to be taken in the kindergarten.

Instructions for kindergartens and childcare facilities regarding the spread of COVID-19 virus

Recommendations for kindergartens and childcare facilities for exiting the crisis period

The childcare institution organises the acquisition of the necessary personal protection equipment in cooperation with the owner of the institution.

Does a kindergarten have a right to refuse to receive a child who has stayed at home for 14 days after returning from abroad and has no symptoms? What should a parent do if the head of the kindergarten refuses to take the child?

There have to be good reasons for not permitting a child to attend the kindergarten. This might be for example if it is known that the requirement to stay at home was broken, or that the child is living with or has come into contact with a family member who has the coronavirus or is suspected of having it. Parents must tell the truth about whether there has been any possible risk of infection. If there have been no such circumstances, the management of the kindergarten has to find a suitable solution.

The local municipality has to guarantee a place in kindergarten to all children who have at least one parent registered as living in that local municipality. This means that if the head of the kindergarten refuses to take a child, the parent should contact the local municipality.

You must observe closely the health of your family and not bring to kindergarten a child if there are any symptoms of illness. The kindergarten has the right to send sick children home.

Can kindergarten children go outside?

Yes.

However, it is recommended to limit contacts between different kindergarten groups.

Should the employees of kindergartens wear personal protective equipment?

Every kindergarten makes its own decisions about using protective equipment. Childcare facilities must certainly follow hygiene requirements very thoroughly. The number of people entering the building must be limited. Symptomatic people are not allowed inside. The groups are also not allowed to come into contact with each other.

 

Special needs education

 

How is learning organised in special needs schools?

The management of each educational institution needs to consider how best to minimise the risks of the spread of the coronavirus while providing contact classes for as long as possible for pupils in the 1st to 6th year and support for pupils for whom distance learning is not suitable.

The best solutions for pupils with special educational needs can be found from the Rajaleidja centres.

 

Studying abroad

 

How can I provide documents to a foreign university regarding the arrangement of state examinations in Estonia this academic year?

If a student wishes to go to study at a foreign university, the Ministry of Education and Research shall issue an information letter to the specific university, if necessary. In the letter the Ministry will provide explanation regarding the conditions applied to graduation of upper secondary school in Estonia this academic year and which exams the graduating classes took.

Please contact pille.koiv[at]hm[dot]ee with your request for the letter of information.

I am currently studying abroad and my university has shifted to remote learning. Do I have to pay for the tuition, rent, airplane tickets to Estonia?

Tuition fee is paid in accordance with the agreement concluded with the university and in an emergency situation payment depends on decisions taken by the university or on separate agreements. The same applies to subsistence expenses. If you consider it necessary to return to Estonia because of the emergency situation, you must cover the costs yourself. First, be sure to check the restrictions regarding returning to Estonia from abroad.

Can the Estonian state somehow support me with covering the costs involved in suspending my studies abroad?

Unfortunately not, as going to study abroad and suspending your studies there were your own personal decisions.

What do I need to do if I want to quit my studies abroad and come to Estonia?

Suspending your studies abroad depends on the rules of the university and/or the contract of study signed with the university. In Estonia it is possible to enter universities according to the conditions and timeframe set by the schools. It might be possible to transfer experience and credits acquired in the framework of the recognition of prior learning and work experience procedure.

My learning mobility / project will start soon and will require going abroad. May I go?

You should consider possible risks when planning a trip. We recommend postponing trips abroad.

When travelling, it should be borne in mind that you may need to remain in self-isolation for some time, both when arriving at the destination and when returning.

Anyone arriving in Estonia who began their journey from countries or transited through countries for which no health data is available or with an infection rate above 16 must remain in self-isolation. The same applies to anyone showing signs of the disease. More information on travel restrictions can be found on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

 

Restrictions on popular nature and hiking trails

 

What needs to be done to establish traffic restrictions?

If the owner of the road is:

  • a rural municipality or a city then they will make the decision for the establishment of traffic restrictions.
  • the state, then the rural municipality or city must submit an application to the Road Administration in order to establish traffic restrictions.

Once the permit has been received, the information regarding traffic restrictions must be published before the restriction enters into force:

  • on the Road Administration's traffic information web application.
  • other public information channels such as local newspapers and rural municipality or city websites.

How should the information be provided about the establishment of traffic restrictions?

Information about traffic restrictions should be provided through as many channels as possible (newspapers, television, radio, websites, letter) as follows:

  • a traffic restriction with significant impact at least 14 days before it enters into force,
  • other traffic restrictions at least 1 working day before it enters into force,
  • if the traffic restrictions is due to exceptional circumstances the notification must be provided as soon as possible after it enters into force. The justification for the restrictions must be provided to everyone.

If anyone feels that the restriction violates their rights and freedoms, they may submit a challenge to the rural municipality or the city, or file a complaint to an administrative court.

 

The police and public order

 

When and in what places will the state-wide restrictions on the night-time sale of alcohol be valid?

The restrictions on the night-time sale of alcohol all around Estonia will come into action on the night from 24 to 25 September from 00.00 to 10.00. The restrictions apply to all places where alcohol is being sold for consumption on the spot - for example bars, hightclubs, restaurants, theatre cafes, cinema bars, concert halls, hotels and other places. The restrictions will currently be valid until 24 October, one week before this date the government will decide if there is the need for extending the period of restrictions.

A person with symptoms of illness just walked in. Can a company in the service sector even implement restrictions? Can workers refuse to serve this person? What to do if they refuse to leave?

Companies are obligated to see to it that neither employees nor clients have symptoms of illness. If a person refuses to leave, call security or the police.

Will the police come to help me if I get sick, or if a member of my family gets sick?

Yes, the police will come to help you if your life, health or property is at risk. When calling the emergency number, you should let the first responders know if you, or any member of your family has been infected with the coronavirus, so that the police will know to take this into account.

Someone is trying to defraud me under the pretext of coronavirus. How do I react?

We advise you to be vigilant and not to come across suspicious offers. If the scam has not yet been committed, send a report of the facts to info[at]politsei[dot]ee. If the fraud has already taken place, a police statement needs to be filled out: https://www2.politsei.ee/en/.

How can I be sure that I do not let anyone pretending to be a Health Board inspector in my home?

The Health Board is not planning to pay any home visits at the moment. Furthermore, each official must show his/her certificate of employment on request. In case of doubt, you should call the Emergency Response Centre at 112 or its hotline at 1247.

Do police officers responding to an incident have the necessary protective equipment to prevent infection?

Police officers are provided with the necessary personal protective equipment: rubber gloves and protective masks, as well as disinfectants. When a police officer comes into contact with a person showing some signs of illness, the latter, i.e. the person with signs of illness, is given a protective mask to prevent the further spread of infection.

Will the rescue service help me in an accident if I or a loved one is ill?

If you are ill, make sure you tell the alert centre when calling 112. In addition to rescuers, an ambulance will be sent to you. We will certainly provide assistance to all those in need.

Does the rescue officer responding to an event have the necessary protective equipment to prevent infection?

Every rescue car has protective masks, rubber gloves and disinfectants. Vehicles and rescue equipment are being cleaned regularly. All rescuers have received instructions on how to avoid the risk of infection, how to act on the scene, and what tools to use.

How can I be sure that an official of the Estonian Rescue Board carrying out a home fire safety visit is not infected?

During the emergency situation, counselling at homes was suspended. Now, the Rescue Board continues with home counselling at reduced levels. During home counselling all hygiene rules and distance maintenance rules will be observed, and a person has always the right to refuse home counselling.

 

Identitification documents

 

If I only have a slight cough and a runny nose, can I come to the service office for an urgent procedure?

Please do not come. If possible, use the self-service portal for applying for the document and come to pick up the document when you are not sick anymore. The documents are held at the service office for six months.

If I should come to the service office for an urgent procedure, will I be given a mask by the Police and Border Guard Board?

You will be given a mask at the service office if you are symptomatic. We still ask that in order to protect the health of yourself and others, you do not come to the service office if you are symptomatic.

Can I authorize someone else to pick up my document?

You can but it is not possible to authorize retroactively. An authorization can only be made at the same time as the application for the documents is submitted at the service office of the Police and Border Guard Board or at a foreign representation. If you have given an authorization then, the person you have authorized can pick up the document. That person must have with them

  1. their own personal identification document that has been issued in Estonia and
  2. your old document if it is still valid.

What to do if I am applying for the passport for the first time?

When applying for the passport for the first time, it is necessary to go to the service office of the Police and Border Guard Board and present a document proving your Estonian citizenship.

Does the Police and Border Guard Board send a passport to my home if I cannot pick it up myself?

No, in Estonia the Police and Border Guard Board does not send passports by mail.

How long will my document be held at the service office?

Documents are held at the service office for six months.

Are the foreign representations of the Republic of Estonia open?

Yes, the foreign representations (embassies) of the Republic of Estonia are open but if necessary they can change or limit their opening times. You should check the times of consular reception from the web page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at https://vm.ee/en/country-representations/estonian-representations.

The phone number of the consular department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is +372 6377 440, e-mail konsul[at]mfa[dot]ee

 

Receiving a passport abroad during emergency situation

 

The emergency situation is over. I live in a foreign country. Can I still apply for a new passport by post?

No, you cannot. As the emergency situation in Estonia is abolished, the usual procedure for issuing documents has been restored. For more information, please contact the Police and Border Guard Board website to apply for an Estonian passport abroad.

 

Residency permits, visas, weapons permits

 

If I have a valid D-visa and my employer terminates my employment, will my visa be revoked immediately?

No. You shall be given reasonable time to find a new job and update your documentation.

I am a holder of a "gray passport", person with undetermined citizenship, and I am currently abroad. My documents expire or have already expired by the time I return, and my new documents will be ready in Estonia. How can I get back to Estonia?

The embassy at the country of stay must be contacted to obtain the return permit. Residence permits for holders of foreign passports and persons with undetermined citizenship cannot be issued by embassies, and the Police and Border Guard Board will not send the documents to embassies.

NB! The travel document is a passport, residence permit alone is not suitable for crossing the borders. If the residence permit is valid but the passport expires, you must also contact the embassy.

 

Transport and vehicles

 

If my final stage training was cancelled due to the emergency situation (only the theory part was not completed), may I continue driving with my provisional driving licence until a solution has been found or will I be fined?

You must certainly complete your final stage training if you want to exchange your provisional driving licence for a permanent one. We recommend that you contact driving schools and take the final stage training as soon as possible. Once you have passed the training, the driving school will send the data electronically to the traffic register. After the data have been received by the traffic register you will be able to apply to exchange your provisional licence for a full driving licence in the online service of the Road Administration. For more information on exchanging a provisional licence see the website of the Road Administration.

I must use agricultural machinery like tractors and trailers as the farming season is about to begin but my machinery has not yet been registered. What should I do?

A Road Administration inspector can be requested to inspect tractors, driveable machines and their trailers. The application for an inspection should be sent by email to info[at]mnt[dot]ee, with the nearest office (e.g. Tartu) and "Application for an inspection" as the subject line. The Road Administration service centre will inform you when the service will be provided. When the inspector arrives, please remember:

  • the machine must be in the open and accessible
  • the manufacturers identification mark of the machine on the body or chassis must be cleaned in advance and must be legible
  • original documents must be inside the machine where the inspector can reach them
  • you do not need to be present by the machine during the inspection. If you want to observe the inspection, you must maintain your distance

Are the Road Administration offices open? Will the driving and theory exams take place?

The service offices of the Road Administration are open. The doors of the office show the maximum number of clients who may be in the room at any one time. Clients who have made a booking will be served first. Those who do not have a booking should consider that queues may be long and that they may have to wait outside. Pre-registration checks can only be made with a booking.

Contactless or minimum contact services are preferred, and these are available in all the offices. We have developed these services for the emergency situation in in order to avoid the risk of infection.

If, however, it is not possible to provide the service you need over the internet, book an appointment with the Road Administration.

Exams taking place right now are:

  • Category A driving tests (registration by the driving school, as of May, also with e-service).
  • Driving theory tests (registration with e-service).

The measures introduced are constantly reviewed by the Road Administration and we will provide information about further activities. We recommend that you follow the updated information on the Road Administration website.

 

Last updated: 23 April 2020