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Churches to introduce stricter coronavirus measures

Tallinn St. Charles' Church.
Tallinn St. Charles' Church. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Christmas is coming and churches will adopt more stringent coronavirus measures in order to stay open in the conditions of the coronavirus crisis. The Consistory of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK) has given new orders to members of the clergy and heads of church institutions that will enter into force Monday.

Head of the Tallinn St. Charles' Congregation Jaak Aus said that because St. Charles' Church is big, people can be seated away from one another during services, the "Aktuaalne kaamera" news program reported.

The church offers disinfectant and masks that priests urge elderly churchgoers to wear. Members of the clergy use visors when administering communion.

Rules introduced by the consistory include observing compliance with the 2+2 social distancing rule, wearing masks when dispersion is not possible, as well as finding a way to distribute or sell masks. Congregations are also reminded to observe Health Board regulations.

Both members of the clergy and church employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Estonia. Some members of the consistory are close to completing mandatory self-isolation periods.

Choirs a concern

Head Chaplain of the Ministry of Social Affairs Ove Sander said that choirs could become a source of infection. "I believe that we should very seriously consider ordering choirs, including church choirs, to take a break from regular meetings in high-risk areas such as Tallinn, Harju County and Ida-Viru County," Sander said.

"All of these limitations and regulations need to be seen as efforts to keep spiritual life alive while minimizing the threat of infection," the chaplain added.

The Catholic Church strongly recommends wearing a mask. The St. Peter and St. Paul's Cathedral in Tallinn has marked seating to help people keep a safe distance. The safety of the choir has also been considered.

Press representative of the Estonian Catholic Church Marge-Marie Paas said that singers have been scattered as much as possible and keep their distance from the organist. "We are taking it one step at a time, keeping an eye on state guidelines," she said.

The cathedral has also added an extra Sunday mass in Estonian to have fewer people in the church at the same time. The mass can also be observed over the internet.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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