Authorities: No need to make face masks mandatory at present

A discarded face mask on board a Tallinn tram.
A discarded face mask on board a Tallinn tram. Source: ERR

Authorities say that wearing face masks in public places does not currently need to be made mandatory, though wearing them in crowded, enclosed spaces is recommended. Some supermarkets have been stocking up, however.

Both the Health Board (Terviseamet) and the government agree on this point, with Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) saying that mask-wearing is up to individual discretion, though he does so when, for instance, visiting medical institutions.

"As to whether there is any sense that [wearing a face mask] should be made mandatory, then I definitely don't get that feeling at the moment. But … I think that wearing a mask in certain places is very justified," Ratas said.

Some countries have made face mask-wearing in public obligatory, including the U.K., which from Saturday adds museums, galleries, cinemas and places of worship to the list of venues where this must be done. Face masks in stores have been mandatory for all there for two weeks, with fines for non-compliance being £50-100 (€55.40-110.80).

Finnish-owned retailer Prisma says that sales of protective masks at its stores have increased significantly in recent weeks, with both medical disposable masks and reusable masks of different materials being in demand.

Prisma's sourcing director, Tõnis Tomingas, said that the likelihood that in any second wave of coronavirus, protective masks will be mandatory in most public spaces, must be taken into account.

"At the moment, protective masks are mandatory when traveling abroad by plane. Some nightclubs have begun to require their visitors to wear them. Since the coronavirus spreads also through the air as a droplet infection, it is responsible to wear masks in crowded places and vehicles," he added.

Hanna Sepp, chief specialist at the Health Board's department of infectious diseases surveillance and epidemic control says those whose work requires physical or close contact with other people, such as health care workers, should wear a mask in connection with the spread of the coronavirus, but in terms of the populace as a whole, only those who are sick and have to leave the house for unavoidable reasons should for sure don a face mask.

Sepp reiterated that wearing a mask is recommended for all in enclosed, crowded places such as shopping malls, individual shops, and on public transit.

Tõnis Tomingas of Prisma says the company's parent group has stocked up on face masks, meaning additional stocks can be brought to market in Estonia if need be.

The prime minister also doubled down on the importance of the current regime, notably the two-week self-quarantine requirement for arrivals from states with more than 16 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants reported in the previous 14 days.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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