Alcohol sales ban continues, no agreement reached on shortening quarantine

A cocktail being made at a bar. Photo is illustrative.
A cocktail being made at a bar. Photo is illustrative. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The government did not reach an agreement on Tuesday to shorten the self isolation requirement for people arriving in Estonia and close contacts but the subject will be discussed again next week. It was also agreed in principle to extend the alcohol restrictions currently in place.

The scientific council, the Health Board and the Ministry of Social Affairs told the government it would be reasonable to reduce the period of self-isolation from the current 14 days to 10 days for both foreign arrivals and close contacts.

Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) explained to ERR that he discussed alternatives to the current testing rules but the government has not yet made any decisions or set any new regulations.

"This debate is currently ongoing as to whether we consider it right to take the test in the middle of the period of self-isolation or at the end of that period, or whether it should be done on a case-by-case basis. As the time frame was limited, this debate will continue," Kiik said.

Kiik said the situation is easier for new arrivals as they can get tested at the border and then retested but it is harder to determine the rules around close contacts.

Close contacts are a wide category incorporating many types of people and exposure time to an infected person can vary greatly. Technically, anyone is a close contact if they have been in an enclosed space with an infected person for 15 minutes or more. But a family member or colleague is likely to come into contact with the patient every day, while a person riding the same bus will only have been exposed once. This makes it harder to create uniform rules for close contacts.

"Neither the Health Board nor the COVID-19 scientific council considers it right to shorten the self-isolation time for close contacts without a test," Kiik said.

But when to test has not yet been agreed either. The Health Board has suggested on the 10th day but the scientific council thinks it should be carried out earlier. The government will discuss the issue again next week.

Restriction on alcohol sales to continue

The government also decided to extend the restriction on nighttime alcohol sales for another month. The current ban restricts the sales of alcohol from midnight until 7 a.m. across the whole country and was due to end on October 24, but will now be extended until November 29.

In addition, lawyers are working on how to ensure that bars and nightclubs do not circumvent the nighttime restriction on alcohol sales. This has been a particular concern in Tallinn.

A formal decision will be made by the government on Thursday about the alcohol ban.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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