We accompany two Health Board agents and two patrol officers at lunchtime on a raid of the capital’s cafes to check whether they ask customers to produce COVID-19 certificates.
The police car is waiting for us in front of the legendary Energia café next to Tallinna Kaubamaja. The agents are going over documentation.
After a round of brief greetings, I ask about the media coverage of a raid. This is the first such experience for me, which is why I feel I need instructions. I’m told that while the police have allowed us to monitor their work, café owners can choose to ask us to leave.
Four uniformed officers and journalists with two TV cameras storming in understandably startles customers.
The café falls silent until Health Board inspector Delis Lehe turns to a waiter: “We are from the Health Board and we want to know whether you check customers’ COVID-19 health certificates,” she says. “Yes, we do,” cashier Õie replies with a slight tremor in her voice.
People on their lunchbreaks are keeping an intrigued eye on us in silence. Food is left to its own devices. I suddenly realize how police officers and inspectors whose uniforms read “Health Board” accompanied by reporters equipped with cameras and microphones can be quite startling!
Conversations with a few customers confirm these suspicions. Õie says that the obligation to check certificates is costing the business customers but there’s nothing to be done. “We’ve counted on it,” she adds.
No violations are detected. The Gourmet Coffee restaurant in Kadriorg is our next stop. Customers and servers are just as shocked as last time.
Here, a customer fails to produce identification, meaning that their COVID-19 certificate was checked while their identity was not. We are told by one of the Health Board inspectors that this is not a violation as businesses are only obligated to ask to see ID if there is reason to doubt the certificate produced belongs to the same person.
We come across the first violation of the day at Levier Café Rotermann. A young man in an apron tells us that he checks Covid certificates, while one of the customers later tells officers that while she has a certificate, she was not asked to produce it. The waiter apologizes and says he might have missed the woman having a coffee as there are a lot of customers that day. A quick glance around the place lends weight to his words. We wait outside as the café is written up.
The woman is bothered by the attention and refuses to talk to the press after filling out the paperwork. The waiter is also visibly taken aback and asks us not to show his face in the news.
Warnings at first
While we wait, a young woman who looks like she just left the hairdresser’s storms out of the café to treat us to a few choice words. “We are having lunch and you just barge in! What right have you? You should be ashamed,” she snaps and rushes off.
The police officer later tells us that the café was given a warning for now and that officers will check back later. Next time, it could be a fine.
The raid continues after we leave. Raids will be held once a week.