Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madis said Peipsiääre municipality government in Tartu County has no legal basis for establishing coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions comparable to the emergency situation. Peipsiääre municipality's mayor believes local governments need to be given more power.
On Wednesday, the Chancellor of Justice issued a memorandum to the municipality government about the measures it has introduced to prevent the spread of coronavirus after two new cases were diagnosed in the area.
Madise said some of the rules restrict fundamental rights and were established in excess of legal competence. She said creating rules this strict is a matter for the Riigikogu.
The chancellor highlighted the reintroduction of the 2+2 social distancing rule and mandatory mask-wearing for shop workers.
She said she expects the Peipsiääre municipality government to reassess its measures.
The Ministry of Justice has agreed. "On the basis of § 30 (1) 3) of the Local Government Organization Act, the rural municipality government cannot establish an obligation to wear a mask and a 2 + 2 requirement for non-administrative persons," the ministry explained.
At an extraordinary session on Tuesday, the council agreed to establish restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus which are comparable to those in force during the emergency situation from March to May.
Among other things, the municipality requires all people to follow the 2+2 rule which means people can only move around outside their homes in groups of two and must keep two meters distance from others.
"We do not want a repeat of what happened on Saaremaa in the spring," mayor of Peipsiääre Aleksandr Širokov told regional daily newspaper Tartu Postimees (link in Estonian), referring to the worst-hit region of Estonia during the peak of the pandemic earlier this year
Approximately, 5,500 people live in Peipsiääre municipality.
Peipsiääre mayor: Something could be changed in the constitution
The government should give local municipalities and the Health Board the right to implement certain restrictions when an emergency situation has not been declared, Širokov told ERR on Thursday morning.
He said local governments should be given greater rights to impose restrictions in order to control the spread of the virus in their regions.
The mayor said: "There are some things in our constitution that could be changed or the government could give local governments decision-making power or the health board."
He said introducing restrictions to limit the spread of the virus are important because they force people to change their behavior. "People start thinking with their heads and protect themselves and are vigilant. If they are not [introduced], then people don't even know to be afraid," he said.
Širokov convened a meeting of the municipality government on Tuesday after being called by Tiia Luht, head of the southern regional department of the Health Board.
He said it was known at that time that one employee at the Olerex petrol station, two children at Kallaste school and one person in Varnja had been infected in the municipality.
The mayor said that another extraordinary session will be held on Thursday.
Update: Comments from Peipsiääre municipality mayor Aleksandr Širokov were added to this article
Editor: Helen Wright