Western Estonian islands closed to all but residents ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

The ferry Leiger approaching the Port of Rohuküla. Photo is illustrative.
The ferry Leiger approaching the Port of Rohuküla. Photo is illustrative. Source: Juhan Hepner/ERR

Under the orders of Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), carrying executive power over the emergency situation declared on Thursday evening in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, only permanent residents of Estonia's western islands of Hiiumaa, Kihnu, Muhu, Ruhnu, Saarema and Vormsi are permitted to access the islands. Additional restrictions have been introduced in order to help combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus, including those curtailing leisure activities.

"We are currently facing a situation where the spread of the virus is very rapid. In order to protect the health of people, it is necessary to limit any activity in which there is a high risk of human exposure and the spread of infection," Ratas said, according to a government press release Saturday.

"Therefore, at the request of the islands, we impose restrictions on movement. We are also closing sports halls, water centres and spas, and day centres to minimise contacts," the prime minister continued.

Restriction of movement

In order to protect the islands against coronary virus, restrictions on movement on the islands of Hiiumaa, Kihnu, Muhu, Ruhnu, Saarema and Vormsi have been established. The decision shall apply immediately and the movement restriction shall apply initially for two weeks, after which the prime minister, together with the Government Committee, is to make a decision whether it is necessary to extend the existing restrictions.

The executive is also taking into account the views and wishes of the islands' local authorities.

Only those who have a permanent residence on the islands are permitted to travel to these offshore islands. Others are barred from currently accessing the region.

Non-residents currently on the islands will be given the chance to leave. 

Similarly, the residents of islands may not leave their place of residence during a movement restriction, except for the exceptions provided for in the order.

The restriction does not adapt to the transport of goods and the provision of vital services.

Car ferry passengers must remain in vehicles

In order to avoid close contact, passengers must remain in their vehicles, on the ferry's car deck. 

These restrictions must also be followed by the commercial sector including the ferry operator itself, TS Laevad OÜ, as well as other firms including AS Kihnu Veeteed, JSC aviation company Transaviabaltika, and Diamond Sky. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications is providing more detailed information, a government press release reported Saturday evening.

Residents of the islands will receive the necessary information via their local governments' information channels.

Leisure activities

All sports halls, sports clubs, gyms, spas, saunas, swimming pools, water centres, day centres, and children´s play rooms are closed, by order of the prime minister, including those operated by hotels and other accommodation providers.

The restriction does not apply to the provision of social and health care services including food aid, social welfare services, medical and rehabilitation services.

The government is developing further economic measures in order to provide support to the tourism sector as the effects of the coronavirus pandemic hit it, as well as other affected sectors. The Government Committee is to discuss these measures next week.

All the restrictions noted above are valid until the order is amended; extending the restrictions is to be assessed every two weeks, the government office said.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla, Andrew Whyte

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