From midnight Thursday, a ban on alcohol sales will apply across Estonia, meaning alcohol sales are off until 10 a.m. the next morning. The regulation, aimed at curbing rising COVID-19 rates, applies where alcohol is sold for consumption in situ, such as bars, nightclubs, restaurants, theater buffets and hotels.
The restriction is valid until October 24 as things stand; the government will assess whether to prolong it one week before the restriction expires, i.e. from October 17.
For practical purposes the restriction doesn't change anything in Harju County, including Tallinn, and Ida-Viru County, where bans have been in place for several weeks.
The earlier bans - Tartu County had also seen a similar restriction which was later rescinded - were put in place by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) and forbade alcohol sales from 11 p.m.; the new ruling prolongs night sales by one hour, though also lengthens the alcohol-free timeframe in the morning, to 10 a.m. where it had been until 6 a.m. in Harju County at least.
The PPA regulation is superseded by the national ruling, which is the result of a government order rather than legislation passed by the Riigikogu, from midnight Thursday.
The COVID-19 figures in Estonia have risen from 25.3 per 100,000 last Friday to 33.7 on Wednesday, though the government announced the order last Friday in any case.
The executive also relied on the support of its self-appointed scientific council (Valitsuse teadusnõukoda) in making the decision, but responsibility for enforcement lies with local governments.
The regulation is not to be confused with an earlier, proposed Tallinn City Government bill to limit nightclub alcohol sales. The bill predated the COVID-19 pandemic, was aimed primarily at combatting noise and anti-social behavior, and would have passed through normal democratic procedures, but it was recently shelved as its provisions were moribund in the face of the government order.
Alcohol sales in stores remain the same, ending at 10 p.m. and restarting 10 a.m. the following day.
Editor: Roberta Vaino, Andrew Whyte