Association of SMEs want all shops except food stores, pharmacies to close ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Tourists in Tallinn's medieval Old Town.
Tourists in Tallinn's medieval Old Town. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Estonian Association of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) is asking the government to temporarily close all stores except for grocery stores and pharmacies to protect staff and stop creating costs for businesses.

The Association of SMEs on Monday, March 23 turned to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications with a proposal to issue a government order for the temporary closure of all stores and service enterprises in which there is face-to-face or physical contact with customers.

The association wants to stop the spread of coronavirus infection and reduce the economic impact accompanying the virus' spread.

Heiki Rits, president of the Association of SMEs, said the association has been approached by numerous small businesses who believe that keeping businesses open in shopping centers or in the Old Town only increases the risk of infecting their employees and customers and no longer generates any revenue while at the same time creating costs.

When it comes to the proposed order, it is important that the suspension of operation is short-term and that, in addition to access to groceries and medicinal products, filling stations are also open and that delivery services and parcel machines operate smoothly, as this would enable to partially resume sales and cover many other consumer needs through e-commerce.

The association said that the imposition of further restrictions should send a clear and legally justified signal to market participants that this is a case of force majeure and that, despite the planned crisis response measures, there will be unavoidable damage done to the economy, which must be shared in solidarity by all.

The association called on entrepreneurs to be open to compromise and to make mutual concessions with their business partners. The association also urged commercial landlords to significantly reduce rents for businesses that have stopped operating during the emergency situation, in addition to giving tenants a grace period until the end of the emergency, and for at least the next two months.

At the same time, the association called on entrepreneurs to not suspend payments to their business partners solely on the basis of the general emergency situation as this is not legally excusable and creates a build-up of mutual debt and a "domino effect" and further aggravates the liquidity crisis.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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