The emergency situation will be extended until May 17, the government agreed on Friday. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said not all restrictions will end at the same time.
At Friday's sitting, the government agreed to extend the emergency situation caused by the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), originally scheduled to last until May 1, to 17 May (inclusive).
The government extended the state of emergency to continue to effectively implement measures still needed for controlling the spread of COVID-19, a statement by the government said on Friday.
The measures are still justified, it said, as new infections and outbreaks are still being identified in Estonia. The easing of restrictions will be discussed once a week by a government committee.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said: "We have seen in the last two weeks the number of new cases of infection and hospitalisations decline, and we have clearly reached the peak. This week, the Government presented a draft exit strategy, which we hope will be approved next week. Then we can also begin to ease the restrictions gradually if the medical situation permits. However, since the exit will not take place overnight, but in stages and carefully, we have decided today to extend the emergency situation until the end of the day of May 17."
He continued: "I stress that this does not mean that the restrictions will all be lifted at the same time but some restrictions will be removed earlier and others will remain in force after the end of the emergency situation. However, compliance with important rules of conduct and hygiene will continue to be a prerequisite for easing of the restrictions. The first step was the restoration of planned treatment this week, and the next steps must be aimed at economic recovery in a reasonable and balanced way."
The exit strategy, which sets out the objectives, principles and plan for phasing out restrictions, will be approved by the government next week.
Earlier on Friday, the government's decision was confirmed to ERR by the Minister of Economic Affairs Taavi Aas (Center). He said the emergency situation would be extended until May 18.
Aas said it was decided to extend the emergency situation for management reasons. "That we should have unified and comprehensive leadership in this situation."
Reinsalu: Government considering regulating distancing measures outside of emergency situation framework
Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) told ERR the government has also discussed the creation of a legal regulation, where restrictions could be regulated without an emergency situation being in place.
"We will definitely discuss this next week so that there is a legal possibility to define these restrictions in law in order to keep distancing in the fight against the epidemic, but so that it would be possible outside the entire legal framework of the emergency situation," the minister said.
Calling an emergency situation increases the government's powers and extends them beyond the reach they would usually have in peacetime. Ending the emergency situation ends the use of those additional powers.
Reinsalu said the government has instructed the research council to run models calculating the outcome of gradually lifting restrictions by Monday. The government will then start making decisions based on these calculations.
He also said the government considered it reasonable to extend the emergency situation for as little time as possible.
Editor: Helen Wright