Emergency situation so far had little effect on small island of Osmussaar

Houses on Osmussaar island.
Houses on Osmussaar island. Source: Juhan Hepner/ERR

While the coronavirus emergency restrictions have led to a major shift in day-to-day living on the islands of Saaremaa and Muhu, as well as the rest of the country, for residents of Osmussaar, a small island off the northwest coast of Estonia, little has changed, as the time of year is generally very quiet and requires stocking up on stores for often months in advance.

At the same time, islanders are anxious to avoid coronavirus reaching the island with the uptick in visitors which usually takes place in springtime.

Osmussaar, population five, sees conditions similar to those of an actual lock-down from Autumn through to early Spring, according to a report on ERR's radio show "Vikerhommik", and in harsher winters the island can be cut off from the mainland as ice cover makes it inaccessible by boat, sometimes for up to two months.

"This silence suits us; it is not necessary to meet up with others every day or go to the store," said Osmussaar island guardian Rita Koppel, on the show.

Osmussaar lighthouse. Source: Juhan Hepner/ERR

Island residents have settled in two different places: in the middle of the island, area just under 5 square kilometers, and next to the island's lighthouse. 

These people meet several times during the day, and work together. They buy supplies in advance, for a period of up to six months.

"Once there was such a harsh winter here that you couldn't cross the sea for two months, because sea ice was moving back and forth. You wouldn't sail your little boat through that. Since that time, we have made it a habit of having two months [of isolation] prepared for," Koppel, who has been managing the island and its life for 20 years, went on.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas visited Osmussaar last September. Source: Government Office.

Nonetheless residents do look forward to visitors arriving from around late March and into April, as the island is popular with birdwatchers and other nature lovers, Koppel said. Such trips are off the agenda this year so far, however.

"We are awaiting guests, but everyone who comes here must be very responsible and know for sure that they are healthy and will not spread the virus. This is very, very important to us," Koppel added.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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