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Hotels organization hits out at government irresponsibility over COVID-19

Deserted hotel corridor in Tallinn.
Deserted hotel corridor in Tallinn. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

An association representing hotels and restaurants in Estonia has called for greater responsibility from government members, after unclear or vacillating decisions and signals, as well as inaccurate and misleading statements from some of its leading members, have had a negative impact on an already struggling sector in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Estonian Hotel and Restaurant Association (EHRL) highlighted a statement made by foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) about impending possible travel restrictions to be implemented by Estonia's northern neighbor Finland, which Finnish authorities themselves have not confirmed are going ahead.

Reinsalu (Isamaa) told ERR on Monday that quarantine-free travel to Finland would only be allowed for work purposes starting September 28, a statement which is news both to Finland's government and its media.

However, one Finnish official,  Secretary General of the Finnish Ministry of the Interior Kirsi Pimiä, said Tuesday that Reinsalu had been correct in his estimation of the impending regulation, though the interior minister herself,  Maria Ohisalo, has reportedly been less clear about the likelihood (link in Finnish).

The EHRL says that such incidents can lead to canceled reservations at hotels and other hospitality establishments, returned tickets to cultural events, and other impacts, which can ultimately lead to job losses, it says.

We fully understand that there indeed is a lot of confusion related to learning to love with the coronavirus, but let us be reminded that more than four months have already passed since the end of the emergency situation in Estonia (which ended on May 17 – ed.), which should be time enough to agree about some common rules," the association announced Tuesday.

Other concrete examples included confusion over the lifting or otherwise of flight restrictions, which ministers often comment about, with no actual actions or resolute decisions being made.

Economics affairs minister Taavi Aas (Center) recently called the limit, imposed by his own ministry, on direct flights to and from Estonia, which are canceled for countries whose coronavirus 14-day rate is over 25 per 100,000 inhabitants (even though Estonia's rate itself now exceeds this – ed.) antiquated, though the rate remains in place.

Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center) said Tuesday morning that having a fixed rate – including that of 16 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, beyond which visitors from those countries to Estonia must quarantine for two weeks – is no longer appropriate, but again, the rule remains in place.

The latter regulation is imposed by another ministry, the foreign ministry – again headed up by Urmas Reinsalu.

Recent direct flight cancellations include to and from Norway and Sweden.

Statistics show that in June, the number of foreign visitors staying in Estonian hotels was less than 20 percent that of June 2019, at a little over 40,000.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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