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ForMin: Very few options left for returning to Estonia

BC. Tallinn, 29.03.2020.Print version
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs urges anyone who is abroad temporarily and needs to come home to use the few available options to return to Estonia over the weekend and at the start of next week, reported LETA/BNS.

It must be taken into account that from next week, the number of regular flights will decrease and there will be even fewer options for returning home. Only a few special flights organized by European Union member states remain, however, demand is high among European Union citizens and a ticket is also needed for these flights.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Estonian foreign representations continue to work with travel agents and transport companies to find and mediate options for Estonians to return home with these last available flights. However, it has to be taken into account that options are very limited and diminishing in real time and none of these flights is free. For those who need to return to Estonia, the ministry recommends immediately contacting a travel agency or transport company to check the availability of regular flights or flights organized by travel agencies. If these options are not available, people who are in trouble abroad are urged to contact the nearest Estonian embassy or call the Foreign Ministry number +372 5301 9999.

For those who are currently abroad and able to safely remain in another country for the duration of the crisis, there is no need to return to Estonia. The ministry advises for those who choose to remain abroad to be aware that their stay will last for at least 6 weeks. These people should follow the instructions of local authorities and make sure they do not breach the terms of their visa or any other conditions for being in the country in question. Unfortunately, it is very difficult at present to predict when the crisis will pass and what restrictions may (still) be in place in a few months' time.

As of today, out of all the people who contacted the Foreign Ministry for help, more than 2,000 people have had their issue resolved and they have returned to Estonia safely. A total of 2,796 Estonian citizens or permanent residents have notified the Foreign Ministry of problems returning and the ministry has information about a further 275 people who need transport to return to Estonia. For the time being, the largest groups of Estonians still in need of transport are concentrated in more distant locations, above all Australia, the United States and India.

Additional flights of which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is aware should regular flights be unavailable:

1. Kenya (Mombasa)-Frankfurt, March 30

2. Namibia (Windhoek)-Munich/Frankfurt, March 30 - April 1 

3. Uruguay (Montevideo)-Frankfurt, March 30 

4. Bali (Denpasar)-Lisbon, March 31

5. Laos (Vientiane)-Frankfurt, March 31 

6. Cameroon (Yaounde/Douala)-Zurich, April 1

7. Cambodia (Phnom Penh)-Zurich, April 2

8. Myanmar (Yangon)-Zurich, April 2

9. Thailand (Phuket/Bangkok)-Frankfurt, April 2/3

10. Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh (SGN)-Thailand, Bangkok (BKK)-Kaunas, March 31. Booking:

11. Argentina, Buenos Aires-Frankfurt, March 31 

12. Peru, Lima-Frankfurt flights on April 1 and April 2

13. Peru, Lima-Amsterdam, March 30

14. Peru, Lima-Lisbon, March 30

15. KLM and Qatar Airways also continue to operate flights at a certain volume from more distant locations. The ministry advises checking their websites and booking tickets at the earliest opportunity. Finnair is organizing a March 31 flight from Havana to Helsinki, ticket information is available on Finnair's website. The ministry also recommends consulting a travel agent.

Important consular information about transit options, new restrictions and other relevant issues:

From March 30, Russia is closing all border crossing points for entry and exit, the decision applies to all border crossing points for vehicles, trains and pedestrians, including passing through the Narva-Ivangorod border crossing point on foot. Borders are closed to anyone wishing to enter or exit the country. On March 27, Russia suspended regular and chartered flights to and from foreign airports, except for evacuation flights bringing back Russian citizens from areas affected by the coronavirus or flights organized under special orders by the Russian government.

In India, all regular international flights and domestic flights have been suspended, as well as passenger trains and land transport. States and union territories have closed their borders. Movement inside India is difficult. As an exception, Estonians wishing to leave the country can go to the airport with a letter issued by the Estonian Embassy. Those wishing to leave are requested to contact [email protected] and provide their name, date of birth, passport number, the car/bus number and, if possible, the name of the driver. There are a few special flights to Europe and information about these flights changes in real time. Therefore, it is crucial to stay in touch with the embassy.

Italy and its airports are open for transit, there are still no restrictions on vehicles transporting goods -- drivers are not required to self-isolate if they leave the country within 72 hours. Anyone entering Italy must provide written proof of the purpose of their visit and the address where they will self-isolate.

The Finnish Border Guard reaffirmed that if an Estonian citizen or a third country national with an Estonian residence permit has to go through Helsinki as the only option to return to Estonia, they will not be subject to restrictions. The headquarters of the Finnish Border Guard has assured that airlines have received instructions and explanations. Airlines have the right to deny boarding for individuals who may present a threat to their health and safety or that of other passengers.

Estonians returning through Finland must keep in mind that they must wait at the airport in case of a long stopover before the departure of the ferry. It is possible to stay at the airport hotel. Restrictions on crossing the border of the Uusimaa County in Finland came into force on March 28 and last until April 19. However, it is still possible to enter the Uusimaa County for transit purposes (for example, from the Turku Port to go to Helsinki); the ministry asks for those looking to transit through the area to present a ferry ticket as proof that Estonia is their final destination. 

Thailand closed its border on March 26 to anyone entering from abroad, with the exception of those holding a work permit with a Fit to Fly certificate issued less than 72 hours ago. The authorities of Thailand have taken a strict approach to extending the visas and right to remain for persons who do not work or reside in the country permanently.

Transit via Lithuania has been extended until midnight on April 13, but is allowed with a police escort only. Since all cases of transit need to be agreed upon in advance with the Lithuanian authorities, Estonian citizens need to contact the Foreign Ministry by calling +372 5301 9999 and provide their  name, contact telephone number / email address and travel document number. National restrictions were extended until April 13.

The national border of Ukraine was completely closed on March 27 at 11:59 p.m. and all passenger transport was suspended, including for citizens of Ukraine.

China closed its national border to all foreign nationals on March 27 at 11:59 p.m. 

Transit through Turkey is not possible from March 27. Air traffic between Turkey and Estonia is suspended until at least April 17.

France extended its state of emergency until April 15 and there are stricter checks on the implementation of lockdown rules. Options for returning via France are further reduced: the Paris Orly Airport will close on March 31 at 11:59 p.m. due to a sharp drop in air traffic. The Charles de Gaulle Airport will remain open.

In Ireland, strict restrictions on movement are in force since March 28 until April 12 -- everyone must remain at home, with exceptions allowed only for medical staff and other essential service providers.

On March 27, Slovakia banned entry from Poland, Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary to trucks weighing more than 7.5 tons until further notice.

In Hungary, international hauliers must go through a health screening on the border, and wear a mask and rubber gloves when passing through the country.

In Croatia, checks continue to be conducted on anyone moving between cities and residential urban communities.

A large number of London-Tallinn flights have been cancelled, which means Estonian citizens will have to remain in the United Kingdom for an extended period of time.

Those who are in the United States under the Visa Waiver Programme must keep in mind that they cannot stay in the United States beyond the initial 90 days. Therefore, the ministry recommends returning to Europe at the earliest opportunity. In special cases, for example, for people who are hospitalised or for those whose flight is cancelled due to weather conditions, they can submit an application to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services to grant of satisfactory departure and extend their stay by 30 days. Contacts for the nearest office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services here can be found at .

People who are stranded abroad, cannot safely remain in the country and cannot find any other options for returning, are urged to get in touch by calling +372 5301 9999 (24h).

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