Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) said on Tuesday the government does not want to start fining people who are not wearing masks.
Speaking on ETV's current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" Kiik explained the new mask rules announced by the government on Tuesday (November 10) are not an obligation.
He said they are a clear guideline and rule for event organizers and public transport users and a message to the public in general.
"It is a guideline. We won't fine anybody, won't start to exercise police supervision. Currently, we have moved from the recommendation phase to a slightly stronger, guideline phase. If we see the rule is not followed, the government will discuss further steps if necessary, which according to the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act, provides the possibility of establishing the obligation with the possibility of implementing fines. But our wish is not to fine anybody," Kiik said.
Kiik emphasized that currently, it is important that people wear masks while on public transport and when in public spaces. "If we will move forward to the obligation, it will be decided by the government. We didn't have this decision today," the minister explained.
Kiik said the government did not specify which kind of masks need to be worn to not set a financial obligation to people who are on low incomes.
Kiik: If 200 people are hospitalized, treatment needs to be reorganized
Speaking later on Tuesday evening on ETV's "Esimene stuudio", Kiik said the government does not want to completely close down the country.
"We are moving forward calmly and it is deriving from the pace of the coronavirus. We don't want to close down the country entirely, we don't want a so-called police state, if you wish to use the term. We want a reasonable state where the Health Board, the Police and Border Guard Board, other state institutions stand for the agreements to be fulfilled but they do it primarily through guidelines and counseling."
Kiik said that he doesn't see any reason why Estonia should not cope with the coronavirus. He explained that currently, Estonia has more self-protective equipment, hospitals are better prepared and people are more aware than before.
He said Estonia is making preparations for when the number of people needing hospital treatment increases.
"We are ready to accept up to 180 COVID-19 patients, if needed, which is more than at the peak of spring - then it was 157," he said. "But if the number of people infected and the number of people in need of hospital treatment exceeds 200, we really need to reorganize treatment on a very large scale."
Kiik said hospitals will receive additional funding so that they have enough people and resources in coronavirus departments. An additional €4.8 million has been set aside for testing.
Editor: Roberta Vaino, Helen Wright