Economic affairs minister: Estonia moving toward easing restrictions

Kristen Michal (left) and Taavi Aas (right).
Kristen Michal (left) and Taavi Aas (right). Source: ERR

Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Center) said that as new information about the coronavirus and its spread comes to light, Estonia is moving toward easing restrictions. The minister added that Estonia is among the least restricted countries in Europe.

Aas and opposition Reform Party group chairman Kristen Michal spoke on ETV's politics interview show "Esimene stuudio" on Wednesday with Michal criticizing the government's decision to suspend most direct flights, as the decision paralyzes the entire economy.

Aas stayed true to his decision to cancel direct flights, saying the chance to catch COVID-19 is 2.5 times greater when travelling. "In Estonia, the restrictions are the lightest in the European Union," the minister said, adding that a majority of the new cases over the recent weeks are traced back to travel.

For example, 45 cases of the novel coronavirus were diagnosed among travellers to Estonia over the last week, the largest number post-summer. Aas believed travel restrictions could be the main reason why Estonia has done fairly well in recent times.

He added that the government is currently discussing shortening the quarantine period from 14 days to ten, adding that the option stems from the improved knowledge of doctors and scientists, helping government to make more knowledgeable decisions.

Former economic affairs minister Michal deferred from saying whether he would have left all travel options open, were he the minister in charge. "I would dare say yes, such volatility is not expected from us. But we can not write alternative history. I can also not say that we would not make any restrictions," Michal said.

Aas noted that everyone has gotten smarter during the crisis and learned lessons as knowledge of the virus is improving daily. Measures and restrictions have been amended respectively.

The minister confirmed: "We are not planning any further restrictions. We would rather go the way of easing [existing ones]."

Real estate developments a hot topic

Aas refused to comment on the link between entrepreneur Hillar Teder's €60,000 donation to the coalition Center Party and the development of the Porto Franco project.

Aas said: "Teder has donated to Center before, last year in fact. The loan could then also be connected to last year's donation, as if to say he is a businessman with foresight. If this were his first donation, we could look at it one way, but since it is a repeat donation, I look at it differently."

Michal stated the current government is best described by arbitrariness, volatility, randomness and a lack of perspective in the larger picture.

The former economic affairs minister said: "If the principles were alike, we would not be discussing it here."

According to him, the government should have assessed the development of the Patarei sea fortress in Tallinn.

Aas confirmed that the topic of a loan for businessman Urmas Sõõrumaa for the Patarei development is being solved. "I hope the solution is a positive one for [Sõõrumaa]". He added that the construction sector could find work on the development for many years, helping the sector considerably.

On the topic of state-owned airline Nordica, Michal said state support for strategic services such as international travel links should not even be a question, but a residential development in Tallinn - a reference to Porto Franco - should not receive a loan, especially as it comes on favorable conditions.

Aas, however, said that the state lifting up development projects is never a bad thing as it helps finish projects and gives the construction sector work.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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