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Imposition of quarantine on persons diagnosed with the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and on persons living with or permanently staying in the same place of residence as them and on persons who have otherwise had close contact with a person diagnosed with the disease

Issuer:Government
Type:order
In force from:01.01.2021
In force until:01.02.2021
Translation published:18.12.2020

Imposition of quarantine on persons diagnosed with the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and on persons living with or permanently staying in the same place of residence as them and on persons who have otherwise had close contact with a person diagnosed with the disease

Passed 17.12.2020 No. 455

Under § 27 (3) of the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act and considering the provisions of § 27 (1) 1) and 2) and § 27 (6) of the same, requirements for quarantine for the purpose of avoiding and preventing the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 causing the COVID-19 disease from spreading outside the focus of the disease are imposed as follows:

1. Persons diagnosed with the COVID-19 disease are prohibited from leaving their place of residence or permanent place of stay from the time they were diagnosed until their recovery. A place of residence or a permanent place of stay also means places where shelter services and safe house services are provided. Whether a person has made a recovery is decided by a physician.

2. The restriction set out in clause 1 does not apply when a person is given an order by a health care professional or a police officer to leave their place of residence or permanent place of stay, upon referral by a health care professional to receive health services, or in the event of an emergency that puts the person’s life or health at risk.

3. A person who is living with or permanently staying in the same place of stay as a person referred to in clause 1 or who has otherwise had close contact with a person referred to in clause 1 is prohibited from leaving their place of residence or permanent place of stay during the 14-calendar-day period defined in this clause after becoming aware of the COVID-19 diagnosis of the infected person. For a person who is living with or permanently staying in the same place of stay as a person referred to in clause 1 the 14-calendar-day period starts from the onset of the infected person’s symptoms or, if the infected person exhibits no symptoms, from the day the infected person took the positive test for SARS-CoV-2. For a person who has otherwise had contact with a person referred to in clause 1 the 14-calendar-day period starts from last close contact with the infected person.

4. The restriction set out in clause 3 does not apply if the person is showing no symptoms of COVID-19, they carefully monitor their health, comply with measures imposed by the Government of the Republic or the Health Board for preventing the possible spread of the communicable disease and take all possible measures for preventing the spread of the communicable disease and the following circumstances occur:
1) the person is given an order by a health care professional or a police officer to leave their place of residence or permanent place of stay;
2) the person leaves their place of residence or permanent place of stay upon referral by a health care professional to receive health services or in the event of an emergency that puts the person’s life or health at risk;
3) the person is a health care professional who is performing urgent duties by a decision of their employer;
4) the person is a person who is performing urgent duties by a decision of their employer and with advice from the Health Board and without whom the performance of a task of a state or local authority would be impossible or highly complicated;
5) if the person referred to in sub-clause 4 is a person ensuring the continuity of a vital service, they may perform urgent duties only by a decision of their employer and on the latter’s proposal justified in writing and with the approval of an authority or local authority referred to in § 36 of the Emergency Act and with advice from the Health Board;
6) the person is getting the everyday essentials near their place of residence or place of stay because it is otherwise impossible;
7) any and all contact between the person and a person diagnosed with COVID-19 who is living in the same place of residence or staying in the same place of stay is excluded;
8) the person is outdoors and completely avoids contact with other persons.

5. The provisions of clauses 3 and 4 do not apply to a person:
1) if no earlier than on the 10th calendar day since the last close contact identified by the Health Board the person takes a test for the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 causing the COVID-19 disease and the test comes back negative;
2) if the person who is living with or permanently staying in the same place of stay as a person referred to in clause 1 takes a test for the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 causing the COVID-19 disease no earlier than on the 10th calendar day from the onset of the infected person’s symptoms or, if the infected person exhibits no symptoms, from the day the infected person took their positive test for SARS-CoV-2, and the test comes back negative;
3) if a physician declares the person not to be contagious;
4) if the non-application of the restriction provided for in clause 3 is decided by the Health Board.

6. Supervision over the requirements imposed by this Order is exercised by the Health Board, involving the Police and Border Guard Board by way of professional assistance, where necessary.

7. This Order shall be published in the official gazette Riigi Teataja and in the mass media.

8. This Order takes effect on 1 January 2021 and remains in effect up to 1 February 2021.

For the protection of the life and health of people and overriding public interest, this Order imposes quarantine requirements for preventing the spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 causing the COVID-19 disease.

Government of the Republic Order No. 336 “Imposition of quarantine on persons diagnosed with the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and on persons living with or permanently staying in the same place of residence as them and on persons who have otherwise had close contact with a person diagnosed with the disease” of 29 September 2020 is in effect from 1 October 2020 through 31 December 2020. This Order hereby extends the current requirements and imposes the same restrictions again as of 1 January 2021.

Essentially similar requirements were in effect during the emergency situation from 26 March 2020 until the end of the emergency situation on 17 May 2020. After the end of the emergency situation the Government of the Republic imposed a quarantine on persons diagnosed with COVID-19 and on persons close to them from 18 May 2020 until 1 July 2020. Government of the Republic Order No. 257 “Imposition of quarantine on persons diagnosed with the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and on persons living with or permanently staying in the same place of residence as them and on persons who have otherwise had close contact with a person diagnosed with the disease” of 16 July 2020 was in effect from 16 July 2020 through 30 September 2020.

Under § 27 (5) of the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act, quarantine shall be terminated after the spread of the communicable disease has been prevented, the requirements for the control of the communicable disease have been fulfilled and the focus of the disease has been rendered harmless. As the virus is highly contagious the Science Council advising the Government of the Republic has recommended permanently imposing the quarantine requirement on persons suffering from the disease and on persons who have had close contact with them for the purpose of preventing the spread of the infection. Therefore the Government of the Republic has sought to keep the quarantine requirements in effect. Considering the number of persons infected, the rate at which the disease spreads, the possible serious nature of the disease and the fact that first COVID-19 vaccines are only starting to be granted a marketing authorisation and there is no disease-specific effective treatment, it is necessary to extend the restrictions. On 16 December 2020, 590 new tests came back positive in 24 hours. According to the population register the most new positive tests were recorded in Harju County and Ida-Viru County where 358 and 80 persons, respectively, were diagnosed with the coronavirus (the morbidity rate per 100,000 inhabitants is 558.8 and 1053.9, respectively). The Estonian morbidity rate per 100,000 inhabitants for the past 14 days is 470.66. 324 persons have been hospitalised and 16 of them are on mechanical ventilation. Infected persons can be found in every county. If no restrictions are applied, the infection rate may rise further.

Under § 34 of the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia (hereinafter the Constitution), everyone whose presence in Estonian territory is lawful has the right to move freely in that territory and to choose freely where to reside. The right to freedom of movement may be circumscribed in the cases and pursuant to a procedure which is provided by law to protect the rights and freedoms of others, in the interests of national defence, in the case of a natural disaster or a catastrophe, to prevent the spread of an infectious disease, to protect the natural environment, to ensure that a minor or a person of unsound mind does not remain unsupervised, or to ensure the proper conduct of a criminal case. Under § 27 (3) of the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act, if the establishment of quarantine is accompanied with a significant effect on the society or economy, the quarantine shall be established by an order of the Government of the Republic. The purpose of the quarantine imposed by this Order is to prevent and stop the further spread of the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

Under § 2 (2) of the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act, COVID-19 corresponds to the signs of a dangerous novel communicable disease because COVID-19 is a disease with a high level of infectiousness which spreads rapidly and extensively and which may be serious or life threatening and currently there is also no effective treatment for COVID-19 and explosive intensification of the spread of the disease may result in a situation where the number of patients who need to be hospitalised exceeds the hospital treatment capacity. The quarantine is necessary for the protection of the life and health of people and overriding public interest in order to prevent and stop the spread of the virus causing the COVID-19 disease. The quarantine imposed by this Order is necessary because the spread of the infection has noticeably increased over the past two months – when on 1 October 2020 the cumulative morbidity per 100,000 inhabitants for the past 14 days was 50.64, then on 16 December 2020 the relevant coefficient was 470.66. To get focuses of the infection under control and slow the spread of the disease down isolating persons suffering from the disease and persons close to them from others is an effective measure.

Quarantine is imposed on persons diagnosed with COVID-19 and on persons living with or permanently staying in the same place of residence or place of stay as diagnosed persons and on persons who have otherwise had close contact with a person suffering from the disease. This quarantine requirement is justified because the virus spreads fast and may cause great damage to health and without effective application of the restrictions the slightest focus of the disease may lead to extensive spread of the disease and weigh heavily on the healthcare system. Exceptions are made for asymptomatic persons in quarantine and in justified cases they may leave home. Exceptions may be made for close contacts provided they carefully monitor their health, comply with measures imposed by the Government of the Republic or the Health Board for preventing the possible spread of the communicable disease and take all possible measures for preventing the spread of the communicable disease. So the freedom of movement of asymptomatic persons is not excessively restricted.

According to clause 5 of this Order, persons who have had close contact with an infected person may take a PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 on the 10th day of their quarantine and if that test comes back negative their quarantine ends. From the time they took the test until the test results are revealed they continue to be subject to usual quarantine requirements. The 10-day period starts from the last close contact with the infected person as identified by the Health Board or, in the case of a person in the same place of residence or place of stay as the infected person, from the onset of the infected person’s symptoms. Getting infected through one’s family is most likely when symptoms appear and less likely later on. Based on scientific literature, infection through family occurs on average 4.7 days after the onset of the infected family member’s symptoms. Asymptomatic persons with COVID-19 experience no symptoms during the disease but they nonetheless carry the infection and may pass it on. Consequently, if a person suffering from the disease has no symptoms, the 10-day period for a person in the same place of residence or place of stay as the infected person starts from the day the infected person took their positive test for SARS-CoV-2. If the test comes back negative or if 14 days have passed since last close contact with the diseased person or, in the case of a person in the same place of residence or place of stay as the diseased person, since the onset of the diseased person’s symptoms or, if the diseased person shows no symptoms, since the day they took their positive test for SARS-CoV-2, the person who has had close contact with the diseased person need not comply with this order any longer. If a close contact falls ill, they become subject to the provisions intended for diseased persons. The quarantine period starts from the relevant event referred to in the Order but the quarantine requirement starts applying to the person from the moment they find out or should have found out that the diseased person was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Research has shown that about 95% of patients experience symptoms within the first 10 days after contact. The Health Board’s epidemiological data concerning cases of infection in Estonia confirm the conclusions made based on scientific literature. According to current knowledge, quarantine for close contacts has been reduced to 10 days in at least twelve European Union countries (the Netherlands, Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Spain, Slovenia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, Ireland, Italy), and in three countries (Denmark, Luxembourg and France) quarantine lasts for seven days in certain regions. Amendments to the Order are based on scientific literature, recommendations from international organisations (the World Health Organisation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control), and on the proposal of the Estonian Society for Infectious Diseases, scientists advising the Government of the Republic and the Health Board.

The amendment allows close contacts to return to their normal lives sooner. At the same time, the test that a close contact takes on their 10th day of quarantine does not significantly increase the testing system load. But those test results are important in terms of epidemiology.

A person can still be declared not to be contagious by their physician and the Health Board can decide otherwise. The latter options are applied, for instance, when a person’s PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 comes back positive because the person had recently suffered from COVID-19 but the contagious period has passed or when a person who has recently suffered from the disease and has been declared healthy by their physician ends up as a close contact again.

Imposing a quarantine on infected persons and persons suspected of having been infected ensures the protection of the health of persons in a risk group, including persons suffering from chronic diseases, persons with a weak immune system and the elderly. According to §§ 16 and 28 of the Constitution, the state shall ensure the protection of the life and health of people but people themselves also play an important role – they must look out for the health of their family and colleagues as well as the weaker groups of society and the public as a whole.

Since § 27 (3) of the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act requires that in the event of a quarantine the term of quarantine shall be set out and a quarantine cannot be established without a term, it was planned upon the issue of this Order that the Order will remain in effect up to 1 February 2021.

Failure to duly comply with measures for preventing the spread of the communicable disease will prompt the application of the administrative coercive measures set out in § 28 (2) or (3) of the Law Enforcement Act. According to § 23 (4) of the Law Enforcement Act, the amount of penalty payment is 9600 euros. This penalty payment, which serves the purpose of enforcing the requirements, measures and restrictions imposed by this Order and preventing the spread of a communicable disease, may be imposed repeatedly.

This Order can be appealed against by filing a challenge with the Government of the Republic pursuant to the procedure provided by the Administrative Procedure Act within 30 days as of the day the relevant person became or should have become aware of the Order. This Order can also be appealed against by filing an action with the administrative court pursuant to the procedure provided for in the Code of Administrative Court Procedure within 30 days as of the day of announcement of this Order.

The explanatory memorandum to the Order is available on the website kriis.ee.

 

Jüri Ratas
Prime Minister

Taimar Peterkop
Secretary of State

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