Sportland avoids fine for attracting crowds amid coronavirus pandemic

Sportland logo.-
Sportland logo.- Source: Jana Pipar/EJL

Sporting goods chain Sportland will not be fined following a discount drive which attracted large crowds to its stores Wednesday at a time when social distancing is supposed to be maintained due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Police and Border Guard Board spokesperson Kristjan Lukk said the law allows a legal entity to be fined up to € 20,000 for disregarding an order.

However, this would require proof that the legal entity had intent to do this or to facilitate others to do so, Lukk added.

Lukk said that on Wednesday, when the campaign began, PPA personnel attended several Sportland outlets at various locations in Estonia to assess the situation and also explain the regulations to customers and Sportland staff.

The PPA also contacted Sportland for clarification; the latter said they had not expected the large numbers and closed their stores from Thursday to prevent a repeat.

Sportland posted an ad on social media on Wednesday, saying that all its goods were marked down 50 percent through to Friday, the day on which its stores would have to close, given they are generally located in shopping malls.

This prompted people to flock to Sportland stores, including at Lõunakeskus Shopping Center in Tartu, where photos circulating on social media showed a crowded outlet, people pressed closely together and clearly not obeying the required distance of two meters apart. None of the sales associates were seen in the photos wearing protective masks.

As news of the crowds spread, a backlash quickly escalated to attacks addressed to Sportland management which, twinned with the PPA inquiries, prompted them to close the stores.

Sportland was still offering its 50 percent off deal online at the time of writing.

The PPA nonetheless decided Sportland did not merit a fine.

"As the shops closed their doors on Wednesday evening, and in any case have to remain closed on Friday as ordered by the emergency situation manager (i.e. Jüri Ratas-ed.), the matter has been resolved, and the PPA does not see any need for further punishment at this time," Lukk said.

From Friday, the only stores permitted to remain open in shopping malls are supermarkets, pharmacies, bank offices, mobile phone stores, some post offices, parcel terminals and a few post offices in more outlying areas.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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