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Coronavirus, its prevention and how it spreads

COVID-19 is a novel virus that neither Estonian nor world doctors have any previous experience with. The virus is highly contagious and it may lead to more serious health problems, which mainly affect people with weaker immune systems and the elderly. In order to provide care to patients with severe symptoms in difficult situations it is important that not too many patients are admitted to the hospitals at once and that everyone in need would receive the respiratory support they need to survive. Adhering to the hygiene rules we are familiar with and social distancing will help keep the number of seriously ill low enough at one point in time not to overload our medical system.


What do I need to know about the coronavirus?

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 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.

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.

How to calculate 50% capacity of the room?

The persons responsible must ensure that the sales premises of the shop, the service premises of the service provider or the public space of the trading establishment allows no more than 50% of the use of the available capacity, and the so-called 2+2 rule is complied with while observing the 50% capacity rule.

Thus, 50% of the floor space available for the public use must first be calculated, and since customers must also follow the 2+ 2 rule, this 50% must be divided by 4 to give each customer 4m2 of space.

Example: For a 100 m2 store floorspace, the maximum number of people in the store 100/2/4 = 12.5 people.

Where possible, customers should be informed of the maximum number of customers allowed by posting a note at the door of the premises.

More detailed requirements for the size of groups of people by different places can be found here:

  • When calculating the floor area available for public use, the total floor area of the sales premises, service premises or public space is calculated as a total area including the area covered by various furnishings and items.

Is there information on the longevity of the immunity achieved after suffering through the coronavirus? How long might it last?

The virus is new, only having emerged at the end of December 2019. It is yet too early to say whether suffering though the disease will create immunity or not.

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.

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

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

How does the coronavirus spread?

The virus spreads from person to person through droplet infection, mainly by a close contact with a potentially infected person who has symptoms of the infection, primarily a cough.

Thus the virus can spread from person to person in several different ways:

  • Droplets or aerosols. When an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, the droplets or small particles called aerosols carry the virus from his nose or mouth into the air. Anyone that is closer than 2 meters to this person can breathe them into their lungs. That is why it is important to keep a distance and wear a mask.
  • Spreading through the air. Studies have shown that the virus can live in the air for up to 3 hours. It can get into your lungs if someone who has it exhales and you inhale that air. To prevent this from happening, it is important to air and ventilate rooms often.
  • Surface transmission. Another way to become infected is to touch surfaces that someone who has the virus has coughed or sneezed onto. For instance, you can get the virus if you touch a contaminated work surface or door knob, and then touch your nose, mouth or eyes. On surfaces like plastic or stainless steel, the virus can live for 2-3 days. To stop the spread of the virus, clean and disinfect all tables, buttons and other surfaces that you or your family touches several times a day.

Most often the virus spreads through symptomatic people. But it is possible to transmit the virus without showing any signs of it. Some people who do not know that they are infected can transmit the virus to others. This is called asymptomatic spread. It is also possible to transmit the virus before the signs of infection are noticed. This kind of infection is called presymptomatic spread.

The best way to contain the spread of the virus is to limit contacts with other people. There are several ways to do this:

  • If you can, work from home.
  • Avoid travelling, if possible. This is especially important if you or somebody you live with is older than 65 years of age or has a chronic disease. This increases the risk that the progression of the disease will be more severe.
  • Keep contact with your family and friends by phone and computer instead of meeting them face-to-face.
  • If you do need to go out, stand at least 2 meters away from people.
  • Wear a face mask when going out.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • If you are sick, stay at home in a separate bedroom away from others.
  • If possible, buy your groceries and medicines online.


COVID-19 symptoms 


COVID-19 symptoms and their levels of severity can vary vastly. The most common symptoms are fever, dry cough and difficulty in breathing. The disease does not always produce symptoms, but for some it may lead to severe pneumonia, which in the worst-case scenario can also end in death for those belonging to the risk groups. For most, who have contracted the virus, it passes without serious complications and a full recovery is made. Relevant information is available, which suggests that during the second week of illness the person’s health can deteriorate significantly. Thus, it is advised to monitor the situation with extreme care and stay home for the entire duration of the illness.

When going outside, avoid heavily populated places


Even though it is tougher for the virus to spread in fresh air, it is still not impossible. Avoid heavily populated places even when moving outside. A 2 metre distance must be kept with other people.

Hygiene should be respected!


Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly with warm water and soap is of great help. If it is not possible to wash your hands, you could disinfect them with an alcohol-based disinfectant. Avoid touching your face and eyes.

Wear a mask when in a public place


When moving around in a public place, it is safest to wear a mask. It makes sense to wear a mask in public venues (stores, pharmacies, medical facilities, public transport) where many people move around, in order to decrease the possibility that the droplet infection released by coughing or sneezing reaches other people.


What to do if you suspect you’ve been infected?

If one family member is infected what should the other members of the household do?

Following guidelines must be observed for your 14-day monitoring period:

1. Use the remote work and study options.

2. Do not leave your home or place of residence, except

  • on the orders of a health care worker or a police official to leave your place of residence or permanent place of stay,

  • you need to leave your home or place of residence when instructed by a health care worker or in the case of an emergency threatening life or health,

  • if you are a health care worker, who, upon the decision of the employer, performs immediate essential tasks,

  • if you are an essential worker, who, at the decision of the employer, and at the advice of the Health Board, performs unavoidable, essential tasks, and without whom it would not be possible to perform the tasks of the state or local government entity, or the performance of the tasks of the state or local government entity would be seriously disrupted. If you are the necessary for the continuity of the vital service, essential tasks may be carried out only on the decision of the employer and on the basis of a justified proposal of the latter, and on the co-ordination of the authority or local government unit referred to in § 36 of the Emergency Act and the advice of the Health Board;

  • when purchasing essential items near your residence or place of stay, and it is not possible to access these items any other way,

  • If there is no contact between you and a person diagnosed with COVID-19 who lives or stays in the same place of residence,

  • when spending time outdoors while avoiding contacts with all other people.

3. Follow the requirements for health safety:

  • wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water and disinfect if necessary, considering that the virus can spread from contaminated objects,

  • avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth and nose with your hands,

  • air the rooms regularly (at least twice a day, at least 15 minutes at a time),

  • when coughing or sneezing, cover your nose and mouth with a paper towel or your sleeve (throw the paper away immediately and then wash your hands).

**4. If you have to go out in public in order to obtain the essential items, you must wear a mask.

5. If you, or someone else in your household develop the symptoms of the disease, then

  • call the family doctor or family doctor's helpline 1220 as soon as possible,

  • tell them that you have been in close contact with a person infected with COVID-19,

  • describe your health status and follow the medical instructions.

Contact your family physician for the incapacity to work or care certificate. If your health deteriorates suddenly, then call 112. NB! When calling the emergency medical services, make sure you provide them with information regarding your contact with a person infected with COVID-19.

The person who has been in close contact with an infected person can take a coronavirus test no earlier than on the 10th calendar day, and if the result of this test is negative, the quarantine period ends.

If I live with a person who has a fever and a cough but who has not been tested for coronavirus, should I stay home for 14 days? Can I get a certificate for sick leave based on the circumstances?

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 close contact with any tested infected persons, your doctor has no reason to give you a certificate for sick leave.

However, a close contact with a person infected with the coronavirus is considered to be the same as an infection. Your doctor can give you

  • a certificate for sick leave if you were in close contact with a person infected with coronavirus,
  • a certificate for care leave if your child has been in close contact with a person infected with coronavirus.

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

If my colleague tested positive for the coronavirus, what should I do?

People who have been in close contact with an infected person must stay at home in self-isolation for 14 days and monitor their health.

If you have been in close contact with someone with an infection, then your 14-calendar day self-isolation period can be shortened if you take a coronavirus test. The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 test can be taken after 10 days of self-isolation, and if the test results are negative, it is no longer necessary to remain in self-isolation. You have to remain in self-isolation until you receive your test results.

The rest of the employees may return to work after the premises have been cleaned and disinfected.

People who have been in close contact with a person infected with the coronavirus can contact their family doctor to apply for the certificate of incapacity for work for the duration of the self-isolation.

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.

Do the same rules apply to children as to adults? Can children reduce their self-isolation period by taking a test?

Yes, children are subjected to the same rules as adults:

  • A child who has a confirmed COVID-19 infection must remain in isolation for at least 14 days until full recovery.

  • A child suspected of COVID-19 infection must remain in isolation in their place of residence or permanent stay and cannot go to any institutions, including school or a public space or a playground.

  • A child who has been in close contact with a person infected with COVID-19 must remain in self-isolation for 14 days. People who have been in close contact with an infected person may take the coronavirus test after 10 days of self-isolation, and if the test results are negative, they are no longer obliged to remain in self-isolation. Until the test results are returned, self-isolation is necessary.

  • When returning from a country at risk from the COVID-19 infection, children must remain in self-isolation for 10 days, testing does not exempt them from the obligation to self-isolate. When returning from the trip, it is possible to reduce the period of self-isolation by taking two coronavirus tests - one immediately upon arrival in Estonia and the other test not sooner than six days after the results of the first test. Information about at-risk countries is available at the home page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The only difference regarding adults and children is that children under the age of 12 do not have to wear a mask.

What do I do if I have received an SMS or a robocall that I have been in close contact with a COVID-19 infected person?

If you receive an SMS or a robocall from the Health Board informing you that you have been in close contact with a person infected with the coronavirus, it means that according to information available to the Health Board, you have been in close contact with a person who has received laboratory and /or a doctor's confirmation that they have the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

The SMS that a close contact receives contains the start and end date of self-isolation. This also applies in a situation where contact with the coronavirus has happened by way of the surrounding environment (contaminated surfaces, buildings etc).

Due to the maximum incubation period of the COVID-19 infection, we ask that you stay at home for 14 days starting from the close contact and monitor your health. Let your family doctor know of your contact with a corona infected person at first chance. If your health condition worsens, again inform your family doctor and follow your family doctor's further instructions.

People living with you do not need to stay at home if they are not symptomatic, they can go on with their regular lives.

Close contacts can shorten the 14 calendar day isolation period by taking a coronavirus test 10 days after the last close contact with the person infected with the coronavirus. If the results of that test are negative, the self-isolation requirement ends. Until the results of the test are known, the self-isolation is still obligatory.

Instructions for close contacts of a person infected with COVID-19 can be found on the web page of the Health Board:

Should a person who has been in close contact with a person who has been in close contact with a person who has been infected with coronavirus, remain in isolation?

If you have been in close contact with someone who has had a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, you need to remain in self-isolation. A person who has been in close contact with a person who has been in close contact with a person infected with coronavirus does not need to remain in self-isolation if they display no symptoms.

If you suspect you have contracted the disease you must monitor your health for 14 days. If you have symptoms and you suspect that you might have been infected with the coronavirus, call your family doctor.

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 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.

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 72 hours and symptoms of a respiratory tract infection have receded. A decision on recovery is made by a doctor.

In order to prevent the spread of the virus, you are forbidden to leave your place of residence during the time you are sick. You are permitted to leave home only on the orders of a health care worker or a police officer, at a referral of a health care worker to obtain health care services, 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 your place of residence or stay only in the following cases:

  • if you have been ordered by a health care worker or a police officer to leave your place of residence or permanent place of stay;
  • if you are leaving your place of residence or permanent place of stay in order to get health care services that you have been referred to by a heath care worker, or if there is an emergency that endangers your health or life;
  • if you are a health care worker or a person performing public duties who is carrying out unavoidable official duties on the decision of your employer;
  • to procure goods necessary for everyday survival (food, medicines) near your place of residence or stay because this cannot be achieved in any other way;
  • you have ruled out all contacts with the person diagnosed with the coronavirus who is living in the same place of residence or staying in the same place of stay with you;
  • you wish to be outdoors and are completely avoiding contact with other people.

It is possible to implement administrative coercive measures in order to guarantee that the restrictions on leaving your place of residence or stay are being followed. It is possible to impose a penalty payment of up to EUR 9,600.

See also the Order No. 336 of the Government of the Republic from September 29, 2020: [].

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?

Studies have shown that an infected person is infectious up to 14 days after he becomes symptomatic. So it is necessary to stay in isolation for at least 14 days.

A person is considered recovered and can exit isolation if

  • he has been without a fever for at least 72 hours and
  • the symptoms of an acute infection have receded.

The decision about recovery is made by a doctor.

No repeat testing is done to patients who have suffered through the SARS-CoV-2 infection and been declared recovered.

If a person has been hospitalised, getting declared recovered depends on his condition. Generally, hospitals recommend staying at home for another two weeks after being released from the hospital. This does not apply to persons who have light symptoms but have still been hospitalised for some reason.

The virus can be detected in a laboratory for even up to 37 days but the patient is not infectious anymore.

Staying in isolation for 14 days is necessary even if all the symptoms disappear in a few days. This helps to prevent the spread of the virus.

All instructions come from the family doctor or the treating physician both when recovering at home and in a hospital. The doctors' recommendations must be followed.

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.

A person is declared healed if she has no fever for at least three days and symptoms of a respiratory tract infection (particularly a cough and a sore throat) have dissipated.

The decision about being healed and able to return to the society is made by the family doctor.

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:



How do the Estonian people feel about possible vaccines?

Starting from August, the Ministry of Social Affairs has conducted monthly surveys on the attitudes of Estonian residents towards vaccination.

According to the latest results, as of mid-December, 50% of the responders would be willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 immediately. 21% do not have a position yet (+4%).

The share of people who do not want to get vaccinated also increased by 4% in a month -- the readiness indicator is almost 8% lower than in October and November. The readiness to get vaccinated is higher among men and people over the age of 65 and lower primarily among women and residents between the ages of 25 and 49.

The main motivation for getting vaccinated is the understanding that with enough vaccine cover we can all go back to regular life, and belonging to a risk group.

Estonian people's general trust towards vaccination is high. The cover of most vaccinations in the immunization plan was more than 93% in 2019.

Is vaccination voluntary?

Yes, vaccination against the coronavirus is voluntary in Estonia.

How is Estonia acquiring the vaccines? For how many people has Estonia ordered the vaccines?

Estonia is participating in the joint EU procurement for buying the coronavirus vaccines. This guarantees the availability of the vaccines for us, as most of the countries in the world are acquiring these vaccines and we would be a very small buyer alone. A bigger volume of orders gives a bigger lever, considering the current complicated situation and big demand, and will ensure the availability.

The joint European Union vaccine portfolio contains vaccines and vaccine candidates of seven vaccine manufacturers. The European Commission has signed pre-purchase agreements with the following vaccine manufacturers – AstraZeneca, Sanofi, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, Pfizer/BioNTech, Curevac and Moderna. Estonia has currently joined the pre-purchase agreements with five vaccine manufacturers -- AstraZeneca, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, Pfizer/BioNTech, Curevac and Moderna. Estonia has the possibility of joining the Sanofi pre-purchase agreements later. Additionally, negotioations are under way between the European Commission and the vaccine manufacturer Novavax. At the request of several member states, negotiations have also begun with the vaccine manufacturer Valneva.

As of January 2021, the European Commission has issued a conditional marketing authorisation to two corona vaccines:

  • on December 21, 2020, the European Commission issued a conditional marketing authorisation to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty;
  • on January 6, the European Commission issued a conditional marketing authorisation to the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

These two vaccines combined ensure that 460 million doses are taken into use in the European Union (there are 446 million people living in the European Union).

With the Pfizer/BioNTech agreement, Estonia will acquire COVID-19 vaccine for about 325,000 people, with the AstraZeneca agreement for about 665,000 people, with the Jannsen Pharmaceutica NV agreement for about 300,000 people. The distribution of the vaccine volumes of the vaccine manufacturers Curevac and Moderna is still being specified, but Estonia is applying for pro rata (according to the population as a percentage of the EU total population) volumes (Moderna 234,467; Curevac 659,383). According to the agreements, delivery of the vaccines to member states will start after the vaccine has obtained a marketing authorisation in the European Union.

Additionally, there are more than 200 vaccine candidates being developed in the world, and the European Union is doing everything so that vaccines would become available to all European Union citizens at the first possibility.

How is the coronavirus vaccine being developed?

Developing the coronavirus vaccines is currently a global priority and several big companies and universities in the world are actively pursuing it at the moment. On the web page of the World Health Organization (WHO) there is a fresh list of all vaccine candidates in the works right now.

Decades of experience with developing, testing and producing vaccines are being utilised in creating the vaccines. At the same time, the same rules and quality requirements apply as do with other medicines.

First, the vaccines are tested in laboratory conditions and then clinical studies take place, where the vaccines are tested on volunteers. These studies help to understand how the vaccines work and -- what is especially important -- give an idea about their safety and efficacy.

All vaccine candidates are evaluated by scientists and agencies according to standards that apply to all medicines in the European Union, in order to guarantee that these meet all quality, safety and efficacy requirements. The decision making process is monitored so that it would be scientifically trustworthy. As with all medicines, the vaccine that will get an authorisation of use in the future must be significantly more capable of protecting people from the disease caused by COVID-19 infection than its possible risks or side effects. The standards for getting a marketing authorisation are not lowered because of the pandemic.

In the European Union, including Estonia, it is only allowed to use vaccines that meet all EU and Estonian requirements. In Europe, the European Medicines Agency checks that the vaccine is safe enough and issues the marketing authorisation. The vaccine will reach Estonia after the marketing authorisation has been issued.

More information about the vaccine and vaccination can be found from the website

How will the vaccination be organised in Estonia?

The plan is to primarily use already working systems in organizing the COVID-19 vaccination -- hospitals, care homes, family health centres. Other additional options that would allow achieving maximum coverage of vaccines in the wider population are also being considered.

The organisation of vaccination might vary a bit in the future, depending on which vaccines pass all the tests and get marketing authorisations. Some of the vaccines require more specific transport and storage conditions, others allow for an easier organisation of vaccination.

Estonia has an agreement with the vaccine manufacturers that the vaccines will be delivered to the Health Board where the necessary vaccine storage conditions (including extremely low temperatures and following of the cold-chain requirements) are guaranteed. The Health Board will organise the internal distribution of the vaccine to the vaccination locations according to the vaccine distribution plan that is being drafted. Transport is guaranteed in a way that there will not be a need to create new and irregular storage conditions in vaccination locations. Even the most high maintenance vaccines can be stored in regular conditions for five days.

The general order of vaccinations in Estonia will be established by the COVID-19 vaccination steering group created at the Ministry of Social Affairs in cooperation with the national expert committee on immunoprophylaxis. The vaccination steering group consists of representatives from the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Health Board, the State Agency of Medicines, the Estonian Health Insurance Fund and the Health and Welfare Information Systems Centre. The expert committee on immunoprophylaxis is an advisory body for the Ministry of Social Affairs that consists of representatives of family doctors, paediatricians, infectious disease specialists, immunologists and allergologists.

More information in the vaccination plan (

In what order will the people be vaccinated? Who will be provided with the vaccine first?

It was decided that first priority in vaccinations is given to people who ensure that health and social care services could function in regular order, and risk groups:

  • health care workers and people working in health care facilities -- ca 30,000 people;
  • workers and residents of care facilities -- ca 25,000 people;
  • all people over 70 years of age and people with certain diagnoses -- ca 260,000 people.

After this, vaccinations will be provided for representatives of sectors most critical for the functioning of the society:

  • front line workers with a higher risk of infection;
  • providers of vital services (in the meaning of the Emergency Act).

Vaccinations are voluntary in Estonia. Every vaccination contributes to stopping the spread of the virus and returning to regular life, and allows to also protect those that cannnot get vaccinated for different reasons. The plan is to provide vaccinations to all the residents of Estonia who wish to get them at first chance, when a sufficient quantity of vaccines has been obtained

More information in the vaccination plan (

When did vaccinations start in Estonia?

On December 26, the first delivery of COVID-19 vaccine arrived at the Estonian Health Board, containing 9,750 doses of vaccine.

From December 27, the vaccination of health care workers against COVID-19 started in Estonia.

Refer to the vaccination timeline HERE.

Why is the COVID-19 vaccine urgently needed?

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating effect on health care, the social sphere, and the economy. COVID-19 disease can cause serious illness and death. It is not known what the long-term effects of the virus will be on people of different ages, but also on otherwise healthy people.

Vaccination is one of the more effective ways to prevent contracting infectious diseases. Safe and effective vaccines are necessary to avoid getting infected.

This means that the body immediately recognizes the pathogen and starts to defend itself against it. It is particularly important to protect health care professionals and workers of care facilities as the risk of coming into contact with COVID-19 is the highest for them. It is also important to protect the elderly, or people with certain diagnoses, as the implications of getting infected might be the most severe for them.

COVID-19 vaccines elicit an immune response in the body to prevent the disease caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Vaccination against the COVID-19 disease is highly likely to play an important role in bringing the pandemic caused by the coronavirus under control and returning to regular life.

Is vaccination free of charge?

According to the plan of the Government, until the end of 2021, the vaccination against the coronavirus will be free of charge for all Estonian residents.


Coronavirus and pets

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.

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 Agriculture and and Food Board. (January 1, 2021, the Veterinary and Food Board was merged with Agriculture Board as Agriculture and Food Board).


Coronavirus and apartement buildings

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.

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).


HOIA mobile app

I received a notification from HOIA application 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.

If you have been in close contact with someone with an infection, then your 14-calendar day self-isolation period can be shortened if you take a coronavirus test. The test can be taken after 10 days of self-isolation, and if the test results are negative, it is no longer necessary to remain in self-isolation. You have to remain in self-isolation until you receive your test results.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Can I become subject to a movement restriction if I was in close contact with an infected person according to the HOIA app?

If HOIA app detects that you have been in close contact with an infected person, you will be advised 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 provided with 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 an infected person, therefore, nobody can impose a movement restriction on you. Restricting movement is a personal concern for each app user and cannot be enforced by any other person or authority.

If you have been in close contact with someone with an infection, then your 14-calendar day self-isolation period can be shortened if you take a coronavirus test. The test can be taken after 10 days of self-isolation, and if the test results are negative, it is no longer necessary to remain in self-isolation. You have to remain in self-isolation until you receive your test results.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

Google and Apple have been promising to develop their own universal applications, why does Estonia need its own HOIA application?

In early September Google and Apple announced that they are planning to add universal coronavirus apps to Android and IOS systems. Currently, we have no information how these apps confirm infection and if it can be connected to the Estonian health care data information system. Therefore, it is not possible to assess whether Estonia could also start using these universal applications in the future, or should continue the development of HOIA. It is not possible to allow notifying infection with the confirmation of the diagnosis, otherwise the app could be used to spread panic.

What does decentralised or distributed solution mean for the HOIA application?

When phone applications are used to notify people of coming into close contact with infected persons, a centralised or a decentralised i.e. distributed approach can be used. For centralised apps, the proximity detection calculation is carried out by a central server. This means that the anonymous codes of both the infected person and the person who has come into close contact with the infected person are uploaded to the server, and a calculation is performed on the server to identify whether the respective persons were in close contact. In case of distributed apps, only the anonymous codes of the infected persons are downloaded onto the server, and other phones will download these anonymous codes. Therefore, in case of a distributed solution, the server cannot calculate the occurrence of a close contact, but it must be done by a person, i.e. your own phone. In case of centralised solutions, the owner of the app server (mostly the state) will receive slightly more information about the infected persons and their close contacts than in case of distributed solutions. Privacy researchers have pointed out that with a centralised solution, the server owner can create a social chart of the infected persons, which is beneficial for epidemiological research, but it also creates the possibility to identify indirectly the close contacts of the infected persons. With a distributed solution, the server owner cannot detect the infected person’s close contacts either directly or indirectly. HOIA is a distributed solution.

Where can I see the technical code and documentation for the HOIA application?

HOIA code and technical documentation can be found on the website Transparency is important for us because this is the way for everyone to verify for themselves that this application is safe, and your privacy is protected. We also believe that being open to external feedback will help us to improve the application.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Will the HOIA application work when the low power mode is on?

If the location services are not allowed due to the decision of the user or automatically to save battery life, then the HOIA application will display the relevant notification. Location services must be switched on in order for the app to work. You can check the settings under Settings - Location - allow Location Services. If the permission to access location is granted but the app is still displaying the notification then it is possible that the battery saving mode is not allowing to use location services.
Then you will need to verify whether the low power mode is on. More information can be found on the producers website or

Why can we not confirm the infection with the ID-card?

In the interests of speed and user-friendliness, the first version of the application has been released to support only mobile authentication tools, which in Estonia are Mobile-ID and Smart-ID. This way, the app user can confirm their infection directly from the phone via the Patient Portal. In addition to confirming the infection using Mobile-ID and Smart-ID, we are creating an option to also confirm your infection during an interview with the Estonian Health Board, which is carried out with each infected person and during which no authentication is required. We advise for every person in Estonia to create Mobile-ID or Smart-ID, allowing them to use the state services even without a card reader. Read more about Mobile-ID here and SmartID here. SmartID is a free and safe smart application, it only takes few minutes to download it and set it up.

I received notification from the HOIA application that I have been in close contact with a person infected with the coronavirus. Will I also get sick now?

If you were notified by the app, it only means that you have probably been in close contact with someone infected with the coronavirus. This does not mean that you will definitely get sick. It is now important to stay home and monitor your symptoms. For example, if you develop a dry cough, fever, or have difficulties breathing, please contact your family doctor who will arrange for you to be tested and treated. It is also vital to remember that even if you have the infection, it does not mean your case will be severe, most people only experience mild symptoms.



Last updated: 11 December 2020