TALLINN – In a letter sent to the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry finds that providers of vital services are still subject to too strict self-isolation requirements concerning their employees and these requirements should be eased.
The chamber proposed back on Feb. 3 to alleviate the valid isolation requirements with regard to employees who work for providers of vital services, similar to the relaxation applied to health care professionals.
"We would like to inform that the need for more flexibility in the requirements for isolation continues to exist, as also in the past two weeks we have received reports from a number of business operators that the incidence of COVID-19 among their employees remains very high, and as a result, businesses find continuing their operation to be more and more problematic," the letter says.
The chamber says it is necessary to relax the requirements in situations where the employee has had no or very mild symptoms of the disease or the symptoms have passed.
The chamber finds that the isolation requirement could be relaxed to allow an employee to return to work, with the agreement of the employer, if the employee's symptoms of COVID-19 have disappeared or are receding and both the employee and the employer are using all the measures established by the Health Board to prevent the spread of the disease.
Therefore, easing the isolation requirement would be an option, not an obligation, for employees and employers. In other activities, the current restrictions concerning employees would remain in place. In the opinion of the chamber, it would also be conceivable to link the relaxation of the isolation requirement to, for example, obtaining a booster dose of vaccine or some other precondition.
"However, in view of so extensive a spread of the virus and the need to ensure that the economy continues to function and that essential services and goods remain available to the public also in the future, it is inevitable, in our opinion, to decide comprehensively whether the general ten-day isolation period could be shortened, for example, by allowing a person with a positive test result, who has no symptoms, to return to work when two or three days have elapsed since a positive test, using appropriate safeguards," the Chamber of Commerce and Industry says.
It should also decided whether, in the case of symptoms, it would be possible to allow a person to resume performing their duties if at least two or three days have elapsed since the last symptoms and there have been no symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 during that time, and provided that appropriate safeguards are applied, rather than assuming that a ten-day quarantine is appropriate in all circumstances.
In the opinion of the chamber of commerce, easing the isolation requirement would, in certain cases, help alleviate the acute labor shortage and allow companies to continue their daily business. The change would also reduce the risk of failure to produce a product of critical importance to society, such as foodstuffs, or to provide a service such as district heating due to the high level of illness of workers.
"For the above reasons, we once again propose to relax the requirements for self-isolation similar to the relaxation applied to health professionals. If, for certain reasons, it is not possible at the moment to apply the relaxation to all employees or employers, we ask that the exemption be imposed more narrowly, such as for employees of a critical service provider or employees performing a critical function," the Chamber of Commerce and Industry concludes.