Government to restrict ministry trips due to coronavirus

PHOTO: Carlo Cozzoli / IPA / SIPA / Scanpix

Sate officials will have to miss several dozen foreign trips as the government has decided to restrict travel of ministry and agency officials in the face of the COVID-19 virus.

Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) said that while the decision is not an outright ban, ministries are expected to review business trips and consider postponing them. “Looking at the spread of the virus in Europe, we can expect that chances of catching the virus in EU member states will only grow,” he explained.

Kiik said that while he will be attending a meeting of EU health ministers in Brussels, the purpose of the meeting is to stop COVID-19 from becoming a Europewide problem. The minister added that every foreign trip needs to be evaluated in terms of whether it is absolutely necessary.

At the Ministry of Social Affairs, trips to New York, Copenhagen and Brussels have been canceled.

People urged to avoid vacationing in risk areas

An employee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs has canceled a trip to Austria for an event other participants will also not be attending. “A conference that was to take place in the U.K. has been postponed, as well as three meetings in Belgium,” said Triin Toompuu, head of the ministry’s EU and foreign relations department. “We have seven foreign trips planned over the next two weeks that might be canceled should organizers cancel these events.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has asked its employees to cancel trips to Norther Italy and China and only travel to Japan, Singapore and South Korea if absolutely necessary.

Ministry employees have also been asked to avoid going on vacation in risk areas because the situation is changing rapidly, and countries might take additional measures to try and contain the virus with little or no warning, including in areas where there are currently no restrictions or warnings issued, the ministry’s spokesperson Leen Lindam said.

Alternative work

The Ministry of Justice has asked its staff not to travel without need and make use of electronic channels instead. These guidelines concern around 30 planned trips.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications said it respects employees’ decisions not to travel and is looking at alternative ways of working. In case of trips that cannot be avoided, the ministry will try and find a different solution, depending on the situation and importance of the meeting.

Postimees was told from the Ministry of Rural Affairs that some trips have been canceled, while in most cases, the reason has been the cancellation of the event.

The Health Board diagnosed another two Estonians with the COVID-19 virus yesterday. Both returned from Bergamo in Northern Italy and put the total number of people infected with the virus in Estonia at five.