Minister: Coronavirus restrictions to be lifted in stages through summer

Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center) on Tuesday's
Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center) on Tuesday's "Esimene stuudio". Source: ERR

While the coronavirus emergency situation is to probably be extend by the coalition government on Thursday, restrictions are to be removed in phases through to the end of summer, according to social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center).

"The document is being drafted and is expanding. We are talking about dozens of different areas, risk scenarios, indicators to decide on," Kiik said, appearing on ETV current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" Tuesday night.

"The original version was around a couple of thirty pages, as of this evening it is 40 pages," he added.

As to concrete changes which have already started, Kiik noted that scheduled treatment at hospitals resumed on Tuesday, with the next alleviation likely to concern public events, currently banned, and shopping malls, currently closed save for pharmacies, bank offices and a few other essential outlets.

Mass midsummer celebrations out of the question

A paced phasing-out of restrictions was important, Kiik went on; this is likely to continue through spring and summer. Major events in that period, including large Jaaniöö (Midsummer eve) events, are off the table, Kiik said.

As to later on in summer, Kiik said it was still to early to make firm announcements.

"A clear distinction needs to be made between what is promised for May and what is promised for July-August. Right now, it is probably premature to decide on July and August. If we are talking about big, international events, other obstacles come into play; as for smaller, domestic events, various business restrictions - well we can broadly alleviate these by the middle of summer," said Kiik.

The emergency will most likely be extended

The emergency situation which the government declared on March 12 was due to finish at the end of April, but this was likely to be extended formally by the government on Thursday, Kiik went on, echoing comments by other ministers that an extension was inevitable.

"The extension of the state of emergency is probable at the moment, as we have to take into account the fact that the pandemic's spread has slowed down somewhat, but it has not ended in any country. Estonia must be careful to alleviate any restrictions and therefore make reasonable choices."

As to likely timeframe of the extension, Kiik said this was likely to be measurable in weeks.

"This will probably be a maximum of one month at a time, but there are arguments that it could be a somewhat shorter period," said Kiik, who noted two-weeks had been a timescale mentioned.

Tanel Kiik also said coronavirus entry vectors into Estonia had now been mapped, adding that the largest single country of origin was, somewhat surprisingly, Austria. Of around 100 people who brought the virus into the country, 30 had been in Austria before arriving here, 20 in Italy, and the remaining 50 had been distributed across around 20 other countries.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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