Movement restrictions to be lifted on islands on Friday ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Windmill on the island of Muhu.
Windmill on the island of Muhu. Source: Muhu vald

The government decided on Thursday evening to lift the movement restrictions on Estonia's western islands from Friday. The restrictions were set to be in place until May 18 and only allowed access to people registered as living there.

Starting from Friday, the restrictions on the movement of people will be lifted and all people regardless of place of residence will be able to move between the mainland and the islands as well as between the islands themselves.

As the risk of spread of coronavirus due to movement between islands and the mainland has significantly decreased, it is proportionate to lift the movement restriction.

The general 2+2 rule will remain in force -- only two people can be in a public space together and a two-meter distance must be kept from others.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) wrote on social media on Thursday: "As the gradual opening of the movement between the islands and the mainland has not led to a deterioration of the situation, we will allow everyone to move freely between the islands and the mainland starting tomorrow.

"At the same time, the rules that protect us all from the virus will remain in force. This means that when going to see the beautiful islands in springtime, you should only go when healthy, following the 2+2 requirement as well as hygiene rules."

The changes apply to Saaremaa, Muhu, Hiiumaa, Kihnu, Ruhnu, Vormsi and Manija islands from Friday, May 8. Since mid-March only people registered as living or work on the islands have been allowed to visit during the emergency situation.

Movement between the islands and the mainland was opened gradually so as to prevent a new virus outbreak. If the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak worsens, the government may change the decision.

 

Speaking earlier on Thursday, Ratas said the government would review the restrictions which allowed anyone registered as living on an island, or as their second address, access to the islands.

He said more than 2,500 people had changed their addresses to be allowed onto the islands between March 13 and May 6.

Of these, 1,257 people registered their additional addresses on Saaremaa, 339 on the adjacent island of Muhu, 822 on Hiiumaa and 78 on Vormsi. The more outlying islands of Kihnu and Ruhnu had seen 16 and seven newly-regsitered addresses respectively, the interior ministry told ERR.

All of this had made the work of the Police and Border Guard Board - who have been monitoring who can and cannot leave the mainland - at the seaports senseless and ridiculous, Ratas said.

"We will examine that in our committee today, and I believe that maintaining the restriction until May 18 is not warranted," Ratas said. 

Those with a registered address on Estonia's western islands have been able to move back and forth between them and the mainland since Monday.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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