Justice ministry rejects shopping mall coronavirus closure compensation ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

A shopping mall in Estonia. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The Ministry of Justice says that operators of shopping malls in Estonia are not justified in claims for compensation following a government decision to close all shopping centers to the public from Friday, as part of its coronavirus pandemic emergency measures.

The ministry sees potential claims from sports clubs, bars and similar entertainment outlets in the same light.

"This area is governed by the State Liability Act, which allows the state to compensate for legitimate damage as an exception only when the injustice to a particular person or company is clear. In such a case, a claim against the state can be filed," said ministry public relations adviser  Kertu Laadoga.

An entrepreneur must therefore be able to justify why it was unfair to close down his business in an emergency situation, something which the ministry cannot see happening given the responsibility for curbing the spread of coronavirus needing to be shared by the private sector.

"We note that the purpose of the ban on shopping malls is to protect the lives and health of people, and the overriding public interest, in preventing the spread of the virus which causes COVID-19, and that the public and private sectors are jointly and severally responsible here," Laadoga said.

"This means that the private sector can withstand legitimate restrictions placed on it for the benefit of society - that is, for the protection of the life and health of a large part of the population," she added.

Since the state does not consider these claims to be justified in this way, any being made would need to go tot he courts, she aded. .

Emergency losses for businesses may also be resolved through via the Unemployment Insurance Fund's (Töötukassa) aid package, which also extends to shopping centers if and when they qualify for the aid.

The package includes providing 70 percent of salaries to employees of companies who are in financial difficulty due to the impact of the coronavirus, for a two-month period, as announced last week.

At least one shopping mall CEO has hit out at the closures.

Ülemiste shopping center chief Guido Pärnits called the move ill-advised and unfair, on Wednesday morning's ETV chat show "Terevisioon".

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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