Interior ministry rejects further coronavirus restrictions in Võru ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Labels on the floor instructing shoppers to maintain distance from one another at checkout.
Labels on the floor instructing shoppers to maintain distance from one another at checkout. Source: Aili Vahtla/ERR

The interior ministry has drawn a line at further coronavirus restrictions in the southeastern Estonian town of Võru, and its surrounding county, in response to a letter addressed to the prime minister in late March asking for a tightening of regulations in one of the more affected regions of the country. The ministry says the desire for greater restrictions must be weighed against the public's willingness to comply with them on top of the restrictions already in place.

Mayor of Võru Anti Allas wrote to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), who is also head of the emergency situation, on March 24, with concerns about the rapid spread of the virus in Võru County. The mayor referred to a Tartu University Hopsital (UT Hospital) assessment in his letter.

"In order to further prevent the spread of the disease, the UT Hospital addressed a proposal to establish full quarantine in and around Võru, with restrictions on movement and gathering, and checks on its compliance," Allas noted, adding that he thought the fears expressed by the hospital were justified.

"In cooperation with the government's crisis committee, we are ready to consider additional measures to limit human exposure [to coronavirus] in Võru. We believe that implementing the measures quickly, and still more so effectively, is, in our opinion, more effective than slower and less effectively." 

However, on April 2, Veiko Kommusaar, undersecretary of internal security, law enforcement and migration policy at the Ministry of the Interior, sent a reply to the mayor, arguing that additional legal restrictions may not have an effect, given the populace may be experiencing both fatigue and an attitude of defiance.

"Enforcement of movement restrictions requires maintaining and supporting the motivation of local people to comply with these restrictions, by providing them with alternative safe activities (for the young, the working age, and the elderly), while also signaling that offenders will be dealt with decisively. To carry this out, we could increase police patrols, including auxiliary police officers, rescue personnel, the Defense League (Kaitseliit) and security companies, as well as increase the contribution of local government employees in complying with emergency measures in the public sphere," Kommusaar wrote.

At the same time, Kommusaar said that Võru County and the city of Võru are definitely one of the areas that the ministry is keeping a close eye on.

"I agree with you that the number of people infected in your city is a concern, and this certainly requires the enforcement of movement restrictions. At present, and in the coming weeks, we do not consider it necessary to impose new national restrictions, nor do we rule them out."

Kommussaar added that it is important to effectively follow the already in-place restrictions, and the will of the Estonian populace to adhere to these.

"The most important things are to keep non-family contact with other people to a minimum, to maintain a minimum distance of two meters [from others in public] and a maximum of two people [congregating in public], and to support and guide shops and other public institutions and organizations in adhering to these rules," Kommussaar added.

"The most important things are to keep non-family contact with other people to a minimum, to maintain a minimum distance of two meters [from others in public] and a maximum of two people [congregating in public] (the so-called the "2+2" rule-ed.), and to support and guide shops and other public institutions and organizations in adhering to these rules," Kommussaar added.

Restrictions across Estonia, as well as the "2+2" rule, include required 14-day quarantine for anyone displaying COVID-19 symptoms, all those who live with them, and all those who have returned from a risk area within that time. Schools across the country have been closed since Monday, March 16, shopping malls (excepting essential services like pharmacies) since last Friday, and most entertainment, sports and cultural facilities for around the same period of time. The government declared an emergency situation on March 12.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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