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Emergency situation in Estonia (Covid-19) - FAQ

The government declared an emergency situation on 12 March 2020 due to the pandemic spread of the coronavirus in the world and the likely further spread of the virus within Estonia. Emergency situation remained until 17 May 2020.

Ministry of Rural Affairs FAQ

Entrepreneurship and work

What kind of assistance is provided to farmers?

200 million euros are allocated through the Estonian Rural Development Foundation to mitigate the economic impact on farmers:
  • loan guarantees to the agricultural and food sector and for loans already granted to farmers (a total budget of 50 million euros);
  • revolving business loan to companies operating in rural areas to overcome liquidity problems caused by the outbreak of coronavirus (total budget of 100 million euros);
  • land capital support for owners of agricultural land for sale-and-leaseback transactions to overcome liquidity problems caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus (a total budget of 50 million euros).
More information about the Estonian Rural Development Foundation can be found on their homepage (in Estonian).
The budget for support measures for the farmer's replacement service to cover a period of absence, is increased by 0.5 million euros to ensure that producers will be replaced if the virus spreads. In addition to livestock farmers, also the crop sector is added.

What should I do if I urgently need seasonal workers in a farm?

First you should contact the Estonian Unemployment Fund Eesti Töötukassa, and find the temporary jobs site OnlineExpo.
Depending on your specific requirement, you may also consider other platforms, including

What are the opportunities for third-country citizens to work on Estonian farms? How much is the salary?

When the work permit of a foreign national expires, the extension of work permits is preferred for people, who wish to work in the agricultural sector. In that case, the work permit can be extended until 31 July 2020.
Estonian farmers are looking for seasonal workers from June until the end of August. Salaries depend on the work capacity (e.g. strawberry picking salaries can range between 700-1500 euros per month after taxes with an hourly salary of 4-5 EUR/hour (net), which means it is possible to increase your earnings with additional working hours).
Farmers will help out with all organisational matters and provide accommodations.
If interested, please contact the following farmers:

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

If you get employment compensation from the Estonian Unemployment Fund because of reduced employment or reduced income, you can work at the same time for another employer, such as an agricultural business.
If you have lost your work and you have been registered as unemployed , and you receive unemployment insurance benefit or an unemployment benefit, then based on the rules currently in force, you cannot work at the same time.
For additional information, please contact tth@tuotukassa.ee or 15501.

Are all labour market measures available for businesses active in agriculture, fisheries and rural development?

The Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund offers temporary salary subsidies for businesses that comply with at least two of the following terms.
  • The employer must have suffered at least a 30% decline in turnover or revenue for the month they wish to be subsidized for, as compared to the same month last year.
  • The employer is not able to provide at least 30 percent of their employees with work.
  • The employer has cut the wages of at least 30% of employees by at least 30% or down to the minimum wage.
These subsidies are available for all businesses, including ones operating in agriculture, fisheries and rural development and will be paid to those employees who have an employment contract and whose employers are significantly impacted by the current extraordinary circumstances.
Sole proprietors are not able to apply for the subsidy for themselves; however, they are able to do so for their employees.

What actions do I need to take to apply for the subsidy?

Information on the application of the subsidy is available on the homepage of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund.

What measures are available for sole proprietors? Will I be eligible for tax incentives as a sole proprietor? What actions should I take?

The state pays advance payments to self-employed persons (natural person entrepreneurs) in the first quarter to cover the social tax in order to help cope with the economic difficulties of the crisis.
The amount of the advance payment of the social security contributions of natural person entrepreneurs in the first quarter shall be transferred to their advance payment accounts in the Tax and Customs Board. If the natural person entrepreneur has already made the advance payment, they can use this money to cover any tax liability either presently or in the future, and they may request to receive it to their bank account.
Both for natural person entrepreneurs and for other taxpayers no tax debt interest calculations will be made from 1 March to 17 May, and these interests will not need to be paid later.
If there are problems with payment, natural person entrepreneurs must also submit tax returns correctly, otherwise the State cannot obtain an adequate assessment of the status of entrepreneurs. When a tax debt is incurred, the Estonian Tax and Customs Board recommends the deferral of debt. The payment obligation can be deferred also when the date for payment has not yet arrived, but the tax return has already been submitted.
The calculation of interest from tax debt is suspended from March 1, to May 17. However, this does not mean that the tax should not be paid if it is possible – suspending the calculation of interest does not mean tax exemption.
The natural person entrepreneur needs to take into account that if they suspend their business activities in the Business Register, then their health care insurance will lapse in two months’ time. It would be advisable for people whose health care insurance depends on their activities as a natural person entrepreneur, not to suspend their business activities.
Additional information available on the homepage of the Estonian Tax and Customs Board.

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

Common Agricultural Policy
A derogation has been granted, according to which advance payments for direct payments under the Common Agricultural Policy may be made to beneficiaries for up to 70% (the rule is up to 50%) in 2020 and advance payments for area and animal-based rural development support for up to 85% (the rule is up to 75%).
A derogation has also been granted for 2020, according to which advance payments of direct payments can be made after completion of the required administrative checks, but before completion of the on-the-spot checks. Under the rules, the advance payments of direct payments can only be made after the administrative and on-the-spot checks have been completed. Advance payments for area and animal-based rural development support can be made after administrative checks have been completed, but before the on-the-spot checks have been completed, in accordance with the rules already in force.
The control provisions of the common agricultural policy support have been relaxed for 2020. For example, it is possible to replace the physical checks required for area-based payments, in particular on-the-spot checks, with a review of orthophotos or other relevant evidence; to make the required on-the-spot checks for animal-based payments at any time; to reduce the sampe size of annual on-the-spot checks for area-based payments (from at least 5% to 3%); replace the required control visits and on-the-spot checks for other rural development support (not area or animal-based) with appropriate evidence provided by the beneficiaries themselves (e.g. geo-tagged photos) and to reduce the control samples for annual on-the-spot checks and follow-up checks for non-area and animal-based rural development support (from at least 5% to at least 3% and from at least 1% to at least 0.6%, respectively).
Common Fisheries Policy
The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) can as of February 1 until the end of a year, as a temporary measure, provided the eligibility criteria have been met, compensate for losses caused by a reduction in sales revenues to aquaculture establishments and small-and medium sized enterprises engaged in fish processing, and for losses caused by a loss of income for professional fishing companies that have been engaged in fishing for at least 120 days in 2018 and 2019, in the event of temporary suspension of fishing activities.
In addition, it will be possible to compensate for producer organisations for the costs associated with the storage of fish in 2020 if the produce cannot be sold. Amendments to the EMFF Regulation also allow Member States to implement the EMFF budget in a more flexible manner.

Can Lithuania suspend dairy deliveries from Estonia?

The Minister of Agriculture of Lithuania has assured us that dairy industries will continue to accept Estonian dairy. Controls will be continued on all batches of dairy – not just on imported but for all unprocessed dairy. Estonian dairy is of a high quality and still welcome on the Lithuanian market.

What changes have been made in the working procedures of the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (ARIB) and in ARIB payments and conditions regarding COVID-19?

In order to contain the spread of the virus and protect people's health, the service bureaus of the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (ARIB) are closed to customers from March 16 to May 17, 2020. All communication between ARIB and customers and co-operation partners takes place either by phone, by e-mail or by regular mail.
On the spot checks have been suspended. Because of this, the aid payments that are tied to on the spot checks are delayed until the situation normalizes. ARIB is trying to continue making aid payments as much as the situation allows.
Due to the emergency situation, the processing deadlines are flexible.
Public events are forbidden due to the emergency situation, thus the information days organized by the beneficiaries of aid will not take place.
If you have any questions, call the ARIB hotlines 737 7679 (area and animal aid), 737 7678 (investment aid), 731 2311 (Register department) or send an e-mail to info@pria.ee.
More information on the homepage of ARIB (in Estonian).

What should stores, shopping centres and catering establishments keep in mind?

The Ministry of Social Affairs, the Health Board and the Veterinary and Food Board have developed guidelines for stores, shopping centres and catering establishments, incl. restaurants and cafes regarding COVID-19. The guidelines are available on the homepage of the Veterinary and Food Board (in Estonian).

What should food producers keep in mind?

In order to prevent the coronavirus.
  • Avoid close contacts.
  • Follow safe food management practices.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces.
  • Ensure proper hygiene.
  • Comply with normal cleaning and ventilation requirements.
To protect your employees, monitor their health status.
  • If possible, recommend that employees keep at least 2 metres distance from each other.
  • Minimise the exposure of employees belonging to risk groups to other employees.
  • In case of risk of infection, clean and disinfect the company premises to prevent the spread of the disease among employees.
Create plenty of opportunities for employees to disinfect and wash their hands.
  • Hands should be washed with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds and at least every 2 hours.
  • Hands should be washed and sanitised before and after the use of rubber gloves.
  • Disinfectants must be in a visible place and easily accessible for the employees.
Wash the working clothes (including textile gloves) after each shift, if possible.
  • Wash the clothes at the highest temperature allowed for the fabric.
  • Clean the footwear after each shift.
  • Use disposable working clothes, if possible.
More information can be found on the homepage of the Veterinary and Food Board.

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

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

What to do if an employee is infected with COVID-19?

If an employee is infected with COVID-19, they should remain home in quarantine and monitor their health. All other employees who have been in close contact with the infected person (less than 2 m and longer than 15 minutes) also have to stay home in quarantine and monitor their health. If there is a risk of contagion, the business will need to clean and disinfect its premises to avoid the spread of diseases among its employees.

Food supply

How much food should I stock up at home?

There is no need to stock too much food. Convenience stores and supermarkets will be open and bigger chains have plenty of food reserves.
The aim of the current emergency situation is to ensure that people avoid close contact as much as possible. That is why we recommend stocking a two week supply for your family to reduce visits to stores and to avoid unnecessary contact with people.

How long will stores have enough food supplies?

The warehouses of larger stores and industries generally have at least one month’s supply even if the production or supply of food should stop. Currently, no food industry or supplier (wholesale distributor, importer) has ceased their activities, which means that food security is ensured.
If any food groups are out of stock at a store, then this is just temporary and new supplies will be shipped to the store within a few days. The state and entrepreneurs will do everything to ensure that there would be no shortage of food for the people of Estonia.

How will food aid be ensured to people who have become ill in areas outside the coverage of online stores or without people to bring them the supplies?

In that case, you should turn to the local government by calling their general number or by sending an email to their general address.

What kinds of food supplies should I stock at home?

Your food needs to be safe for consumption. You should prefer food that your family eats and knows how to prepare in normal circumstances.
You should also take into account the special needs of family members (e.g. baby food, allergies) and remember to stock up on drink (water, juices).
Substitute perishable food with longer-lasting food supplies if possible.
Important: Be sure to stock food for your pets as well!

Transmission through food

Can COVID-19 transmit through food?

Based on scientific data, people are not infected with COVID-19 through food, therefore it is unlikely that COVID-19 could be transmitted through food. Corona viruses need a host, i.e. an animal or human to reproduce and are not able to reproduce in food.

What should people offering home deliveries keep in mind when transporting to people in home quarantine?

The following principles should be followed for suppling food.
  • Make sure you are well and in good health.
  • Disinfect or thoroughly wash your hands before and after going to the store.
  • Deliver produce that needs to be stored in a refrigerator of freezer as quickly as possible to avoid excessive heating or defrosting of the product.
  • Use the nearest store to offer assistance to avoid spending too much time on the transportation of food.
  • Do not damage, break or bruise the packaging.
  • Deliver the food without direct contact with the customer.
  • Keep at least a 2-metre distance while handing over the delivery.

Can a person become ill when coming into contact with food which has been handled by a person infected with COVID-19?

It is highly unlikely that a person would contract COVID-19 from handling food. In addition, according to the European Food Safety Authority there is no evidence that food products could be a source of a virus or a way to transmit the virus.

As with all other contact surfaces that have been contaminated as a result of exposure to a sick person, it is theoretically possible that foods can also lead indirectly to an infection when in contact with food. Therefore, it is important for everyone to follow the advice of the Health Board when washing hands (PDF).

Staff who handles food (for example, slice meat, dairy products, clean fish, package fruit and vegetables) must wear gloves and change them often, or wash their hands often.

Clients in stores should bear in mind not to touch food which they do not intend to purchase. This will help prevent the contamination of food with possible pathogens on their hands.

Should I clean goods and packages bought from the store? If so, how?

Berries, fruit and vegetables bought from the store should be washed thoroughly with hot water. It is inadvisable to use soap or dishwasher. Plastic packaging can be washed with soapy water or cleaned with a disinfectant, paper packages can be cleaned with a disinfectant.
COVID-19 is a droplet infection, which spreads from person to person; the virus spreads mainly through close contact with a person who has symptoms characteristic to the infection, especially fever, a cough and breathing difficulties. Coronavirus can survive on contaminated hard surfaces for up to 72 hours. That is why it is import to avoid contamination and, if necessary, clean and disinfect all surfaces that may have come into contact with a person.

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

Yes. It is very important to wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and after entering the store, as it protects both you and others. You also need to wash your hands both before you start preparing food and after food has been cooked.
Store your foods properly (avoid any contact between foods consumed raw and food requiring heat treatment), discard the outer packaging before storage (for example, a paper packaging, if there is also a plastic inner packaging), while taking note of important information such as the best before date. Fruit and vegetables must be washed regularly with clean water, especially if they are not heat-treated (COVID-19 does not survive heat treatment).
Food contamination should be avoided through kitchen utensils (knives, plates, etc.), wash your dishes carefully before coming into contact with different food items.
The instructions for heat treatment (time, temperature) should be followed for foods that are to be eaten after heat treatment.
The refrigerator and kitchen area should be cleaned thoroughly and more often than usual.

Transmission through animals

Can animals be infected with COVID-19?

Based on current information, pets and other animals are not in danger of being infected with COVID-19 and will not spread the disease to humans. Thousands of pets have been tested in the world and only three tests have shown traces of the SARS-CoV-2 genotype that causes COVID-19. However, there is no possible confirmation in any of these cases that the cause of these animals’ illness was COVID-19.
Based on current information, traces of the virus identified in the animals could have been the result of a contamination of the environment (animal organism as any other surface, where the virus can be deposited) and the animal has been the epidemiological termination point (from where the virus will not be transmitted).

Can an animal be infected with COVID-10 through food?

As with human food, there is no information regarding the transmission if COVID-19 virus via pet food. This also applies to feed for farmed animals. It is highly unlikely that, when handling animal feed, it would be possible to be infected with COVID-19 virus agent.

Can people be infected with COVID-19 through contact with animals?

There is no evidence of any kind that pets or other animals could be a source of infection for humans.

Is handling animals safe?

As animals are not a source of infection to humans based on current information, it is still safe for animal keepers to provide the necessary care for animals, such as feeding, providing water, medical care, stocking feed, etc. for them.
If an animal’s welfare is not ensured, then this may directly endanger their health or even life. Even in a crisis situation, ensuring an animal’s welfare is important and an animal should not be neglected.

What should animal keepers know in relation to COVID-19?

Compliance with basic hygiene requirement will also help to protect against regular bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella, which may transfer from animals to humans. That is why it is advisable to wash your hands with water and soap after being in contact with an animal.
A meat processing business employee, a veterinarian checking animals and food at a market, a market worker and an employee working with live animals or handling animal products at a farm should, in addition to frequent hand washing, also pay attention to the following after handling animals or animal products.
  • Special work clothes and gloves should be worn when handling animals and fresh meat.
  • Work equipment and workplaces that are used should be regularly disinfected (at least once a day).
  • Protective clothing should be removed and cleaned after a job is completed. It is advisable to keep work clothing/protective clothing and other work equipment at the workplace and clean them on location.
Additional information available on the homepage of the Veterinary and Food Board (in Estonian).

Transportation

Is the free movement of goods in the EU and with third countries ensured? Can agricultural products be imported to Estonia and can they be exported out of the country?

Despite the fact that there are no restrictions to the free movement of food products, the sale of freshwater fish (perch, pike perch) and salmon products has drastically decreased in Western Europe as restaurants are closed and demand for fresh fish has diminished. Sale of frozen sprat and Baltic herring, where the main export market is Ukraine, has continued.

There was a problem with the certificate of a product during import and there are difficulties in sending the original certificate on time due to the suspension of air traffic. Is it acceptable to use a copy of the original certificate during the crisis situation?

Yes, the European Commission has sent a notification to the EU’s external trade partners and embassies that it is acceptable to use a copy of the original certificate as a temporary measure during the crisis situation for import to the EU under the following circumstances.
The European Commission has asked for similar measures to be implemented in countries outside the EU as some EU exporters have also had problems with presenting original certificates.

What should be taken into consideration when travelling with a pet?

Before travelling with a pet, we advise you to consult with the destination or transit country/countries regarding their policies during the current emergency situation. More information on travel restrictions are available on the homepage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia.
Addition information for travelling with a pet and general requirements for that are available on the homepage of the Veterinary and Food Board.

 

Last updated: 17 July 2020