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Minister: Shopping malls open in May if coronavirus situation stays same

Taavi Aas on Tuesday's
Taavi Aas on Tuesday's "Esimene stuudio". Source: ERR

If the present situation continues, with no increase in the rate of coronavirus infections, shopping malls may be open from May 11, economic affairs minister Taavi Aas (Center) says.

Malls have been closed for a month in response to the coronavirus pandemic, with only supermarkets, pharmacies, mobile phone stores, bank offices and a few other essential outlets working.

"If the current situation continues, then the government will discuss the opening of shopping centers early next week," Aas told ETV politics show "Esimene stuudio" Tuesday night.

"I hope May 11 will be the date when shopping centers can open again. No one directly (in the government-ed.) disputes that date, though there is a desire for input from the [coronavirus] scientific council," Aas went on, adding that opening malls would definitely be accompanied by restrictions.

Multiplier has dipped below 1, likely to rise when restrictions lifted

Aas said the key factor affecting the removal of restrictions is the coronavirus infection rate, which has now fallen below a multiplier of 1.0 (i.e. should start to go down-ed.) in Estonia.

Aas also said that easing the restrictions was likely to lead to a rise in the multiplier again.

"When the easing of restrictions comes, it (the infection rate-ed.) starts to increase [again], but what matters is how high this grows," Aas went on, noting that if the rate passed a certain level the government would need to rethink its deadline dates for the continued easing of restrictions.

Recent new outbreak in apartment buildings

Aas referenced fears late last week that a new coronavirus outbreak had been experienced in several Tallinn apartment buildings. 

"Last week, it seemed to us that everything was moving along very nicely, but then came suspicions in Tallinn that new cases might start to appear en masse. Doctors warned that the number of cases had started to increase within apartment buildings, adding the [new] spread of the virus could be rapid," he said.

What constitutes a major public event still being discussed

Giving the example of Norway, where public events with more than 500 participants have been banned until the beginning of September, Aas said that the main discussion on this in Estonia at present was whether the figure should be 500 or 1,000 attendees.

Aas said the organizers of major events will in any case have to change their plans, echoing statements already made by culture minister Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa), adding that the 2+2 rule may still apply through the summer and that large-scale events were off the table.

Another factor was the lifting of restrictions being contingent on the adherence of the public to those very restrictions, something that was being monitored.

 "One measure is people's readiness to follow the given instructions. Public behavior, readiness and desires are monitored on a weekly basis."

On the issue of deadlines, Aaas said that, as in other countries, too many deadlines could send the wrong message if the situation changed.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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