Government: 2+2 rule returns, mask requirement indoors ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

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A woman wearing a mask on a tram in Tallinn.
A woman wearing a mask on a tram in Tallinn. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The 2+2 rule will be reintroduced in enclosed public spaces, the government decided on Tuesday, and wearing a mask will be required for anyone over 12. The requirements will take effect from Monday, November 16 and be reviewed every two weeks.

The 2+2 rule will apply in shopping malls, large stores and government offices. It also applies in entertainment venues which must shut at midnight. People must queue behind marked lines at checkouts.

The 2+2 requirement will not apply to cinemas, theaters or schools. Small shops in rural areas and other places where it is not possible to follow the rule reasonably also do not have to implement the rules. 

An exception has been made for restaurants where up to 10 people can sit at a table in a restaurant but that table must be two meters apart from the next table.

Masks - or a similar face covering - must be worn on public transport and in concert halls, cinemas and theaters.

The 2+2 rule means only two people can move about in public together - this does not apply to families - and two meters distance must be kept from other people.

Initially, the restrictions apply for two weeks and will then be reassessed.

Reps: We want to keep society open

Minister of Education Mailis Reps (Center) told Vikerraadio's "Uudis+" the government has agreed to introduce the new restrictions.

Reps said the government had not specified what type of mask should be worn but a mask or similar face covering is allowed. Under 12s and those with medical conditions do not need to wear a mask.

She said fines would not be imposed for non-compliance but medical institutions or concert organizers have the right to require the visitor to wear a mask.

An agreement was reached with restaurants on the new conditions after several days of negotiations with representatives.

Reps said the government wants to keep society open for as long as possible and said this is especially important for schools where inclass teaching should take place for students up to the 5th grade and children with learning disabilities.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) said education and medicine are the two pillars which must remain standing. 

Kiik said the government did not consider reestablishing a state of emergency because the lessons learned in the spring show that things can be done in other ways.

"We have a greater testing capacity, we have more knowledge, the organization of treatment is much better, personal protective equipment is stockpiled and we want to do our best to ensure maximum openness and functioning throughout society during the virus period," he said.

New regulations

The Cabinet of Ministers on Tuesday approved the new coronavirus measures in principle, meaning they will need to be officially agreed later this week on Thursday.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said the situation regarding the spread of the coronavirus in Estonia is critical and the number of patients in hospital is growing rapidly.

"In cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Health Board, and the Science Council, we offer recommendations and suggestions on how to reduce the spread of the infection at work, at home, on public transport, and in other public places. In addition, in the current situation, we consider it necessary to tighten restrictions in commercial establishments and catering and entertainment establishments so that we could control the spread of the virus," he said.

The recommendations and suggestions issued by the government on Tuesday afternoon are published below:

Workplace

  • Employees are recommended to work remotely if possible.
  • Employers are advised to prepare a teleworking plan and make arrangements for telework in case a worker becomes infected at work.
  • It is recommended to cancel group events, such as Christmas parties, attended by people who you do not see on a daily basis. Seeing family at Christmas is allowed.

Home and family life

  • Before meeting with a person in a risk category, make sure you are not infected with coronavirus and that you visit safely: wear a mask, keep your distance and clean your hands and surfaces.
  • Welfare institutions must ensure safe opportunities for contact and non-contact communication for people belonging to risk groups.
  • Rules must be followed when living with an infected person. These include wearing a mask, keeping your distance and limiting contact with them if possible, and cleaning hands and surfaces regularly.

Public places and public transport

  • A mask or face covering - which covers the mouth and nose - must be worn on public transport and at shopping malls, conferences, concerts, the theater and cinema. The government is asking carriers, enterprisers, and event organisers to monitor compliance and to inform people.
  • The mask does not have to be worn by people for whom it is medically indicated, for example, asthmatics or the deaf, and children under the age of 12.
  • Signs must be on display displaying the 2+2 and mask rules.

The following rules will take effect on November 16.

  • 2+2 rule is in place in service halls and public areas of commercial enterprises, except for families and if this cannot be reasonably guaranteed
  • No more than 10 people can meet as a group in catering and entertainment establishments but a two-meter distance rule applies.
  • Opening hours of catering and entertainment facilities will be limited from midnight to 6 a.m. to prevent crowds. The restriction does not cover the sale of take-away food.

The government's announcement can be read here.

Editor's note: This article was updated to add the list of restrictions issued by the government and a second time to add the implementation date.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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