Shopping centers will close on Friday after the government announced a new set of restrictions aimed at combatting the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in public places. Supermarkets, pharmacies and telecommunications shops will remain open as well as shops outside of shopping centers.
Shopping centers will be closed from March 27. But supermarkets, pharmacies, telecommunications outlets, banks, postal collection machines, and shops selling or renting medical devices will remain open inside. Only take-away food will be sold at eateries. Hand sanitizer must be provided at the entrances and exits of shopping centers.
As of March 27, eateries, bars and other entertainment facilities must be closed at 10 p.m., except for selling take-away food and beverages. Entertainment areas such as bowling alleys, billiards halls, hookah cafes, clubs will also be closed.
From tomorrow (Wednesday, March 25), at least two meters must be kept between people in public places such as on beaches, promenades and hiking trails.
People will not be allowed to move around in groups of more than two people in public. The restriction does not apply to families moving around together.
An emergency situation is currently in place in Estonia which limits movement in public spaces. Cinemas, theaters, museums, gyms and water parks are already closed until at least May 1. Public gatherings are banned. Anyone who can is being asked to work from home.
On Tuesday, public playgrounds and sports grounds were shut in Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu.
Ratas: Shops will remain open outside of shopping centers
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said at an extraordinary news conference on Tuesday that the next few weeks will be critical in the fight against the coronavirus and called for greater efforts to be made by everyone to stop the spread.
"I ask for an even greater effort by all of us to prevent the spread of coronavirus," said Prime Minister Ratas. "We need to behave as 'our' society, not as 'my' society. It is in the interest of all Estonian people. The faster the coronavirus stops spreading, the faster we will return to our normal pace of life."
Ratas confirmed the government has a plan for how to proceed. "We have different scenarios on the table for how a virus can spread, depending on how effectively we can prevent it," the prime minister said.
Ratas said separate shops, that is, shops not located in shopping centers, will remain open. "Separate shops will remain open, but there is a rule that people move, either alone or with another person, with a distance of two meters between them," Ratas explained.
The government will review the restrictions in two weeks. The emergency situation is currently scheduled to last until May 1.
Lutsar: Measures need to be strengthened
Irja Lutsar, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Tartu, and member of the Scientific Council, said at a press conference the restrictions which have been put in place so far have limited the spread of coronavirus in Estonia. However, the virus has not disappeared.
"We found that the emergency situation was justified, it is working, but at the same time we can see that the virus has not disappeared from the surface of Estonia and that some measures need to be strengthened," Lutsar said, summarizing the findings of a report by the Scientific Council.
Lutsar said people need to be prepared for a rapid increase in the number of people infected, as many people returned to Estonia from European countries last week. It is not yet known how well these people will enforce self-isolation.
"Because of this, even after lengthy discussions, we found that strengthening certain measures is currently justified to get the virus under control in Estonia," she reiterated, stressing the importance of people staying in quarantine to prevent the spread of the virus.
Editor: Helen Wright