Estonian govt to impose new restrictions Thursday

Shopping mall in Tartu.
Shopping mall in Tartu. Photo: Kristjan Teedema

Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas said in a social media post on Wednesday that the government, acting on the basis of a recommendation of the Scientific Council and the Health Board to bring contacts between people to a minimum and reduce the movement of people, will impose temporary coronavirus related restrictions on Thursday that can be extended if the spread of the virus does not stop. 

"The restrictions we have had to date have slowed down the increase in the spread of the virus, but achieving a reduction requires a greater effort. Therefore, the government will decide to again expand the restrictions both locally and across Estonia," Ratas said.

Specifically, in East-Viru County, all recreational establishments and leisure activities and public events will be stopped, as well as cinemas, theaters, concert venues, museums and exhibition establishments, places to eat, sports clubs, swimming pools, spas and providers of accommodation service closed for three weeks starting Dec. 12. The restrictions will be valid for indoor and outdoor facilities alike.  

Churches and other places where religious services are conducted in East-Viru County will be able to continue their work provided that they observe the 50 percent occupancy rule, the 2+2 rule, the obligation to wear a mask and the requirement to use disinfectants. The government is asking churches and other parties conducting religious services to observe measures necessary for preventing the spread of the virus in the provision of communion and other sacraments. 

In addition, oversight over adherence to the isolation requirement will be stepped up in East-Viru County, especially when it comes to the people who cross the border, and border crossings must be brought to a minimum.

The new restrictions to be valid across Estonia will see all educational establishments: general education schools, vocational and applied higher education establishments, as well as universities close their doors from Dec. 14. Their work will continue as usual next year unless the government decides otherwise. Contact learning may take place for pupils with special education needs and it will be permitted to conduct personal consultations, practical training and exams, as well as stage olympiads, using assurance measures. By way of an exception, educational establishments may use distance learning. Kindergartens and child care establishments will remain open. 

Between Dec. 14 and Jan. 4, hobby education, hobby activities and sports activities will be suspended across Estonia for minors and adults alike. Only individual activities, teaching and sport, as well as activities offered from a distance will continue to be permitted. Individual outdoor sports will be permitted. 

The restrictions will not apply to professional athletes, including master's league teams, team members and candidate team members. Both youth and adults will be able to train and compete in single person disciplines and team sports without spectators. Nor will the restrictions apply to the activities of special needs people. 

Oversight over adherence to the isolation requirement will be stepped up. The government will prepare additional financial compensation mechanisms for the fields that suffer the most as a result of the closures.