Prime minister: Government calls on nation to unite in emergency situation

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas appearing on Friday morning's edition of
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas appearing on Friday morning's edition of "Terevisioon". Source: ERR

The Estonian government is asking for the support of the Estonian public after calling an emergency situation Thursday evening, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Appearing on ETV morning show "Terevisioon", Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) expressed his hope that by acting in unity, the country could overcome the virus and its effects.

"An emergency situation is currently in place," Ratas told "Terevisioon" presenter Katrin Viirpalu.

"I am asking for the support of all Estonian people. I am certain that together, we can overcome this pernicious and evil virus," said Ratas.

"Of course life goes on, the buses are running, and people are going to work," he added.

Ratas thanked the private sector for what he said had been a great sense of responsibility even before the emergency situation was declared.

"It's not just a matter of the virus, the damage has already been passed on to the economy. The state is planning support packages, and these are currently being developed," Ratas continued. 

"It is important that the current economic downturn be as soft as possible and that we can return to normal."

Ratas chairs the government's emergency crisis committee but, if necessary, could be subsituted by either the Minister of the Interior (Mart Helme-ed.) or the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Urmas Reinsalu-ed.), Ratas said.

The emergency situation measures include the forbidding of large public gatherings, increased border checks, and all Estonian schools are closed from Monday, March 16.

Food stocks are sufficient

As to fears of food shortages and the possibility of panic buying, the prime minister said that there was no reason to worry.

"The stores will remain open, as they have been so far," he said. 

"There is enough food. It is understandable that people want to stock up on supplies, but there is no reason to panic - people do not have to queue up."

Ratas added that there is currently no reason to restrict movement within the country, but added that close contact should be made as little as possible.

Border controls imposed by the government as part of the emergency situation entail sanitary checks, he said, though currently the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) has not been called in. 

Those entering the country have to fill in forms, Ratas said, and those returning from coronavirus high risk areas must be quarantined.

There is no need to ban flights, Ratas added; while the volume of passengers has dropped significantly, Estonian people currently outside the country must get home, he went on.

Under Estonian law, a state of emergency ("erakorraline seisukord") is only declared in case of a threat to the constitutional order of Estonia and it is not possible to eliminate a threat thereto without the implementation of the measures provided for in the State of Emergency Act. Under the Emergency Act, the Estonian government may declare an emergency situation ("eriolukord") for the resolving of an emergency caused by a natural disaster, catastrophe or spread of a communicable disease.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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