PM: Harju and Ida-Viru high school classes to be put on remote learning

Prime Minister Jürio Ratas.
Prime Minister Jürio Ratas. Source: ERR

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said in an interview to "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Friday evening that new measures planned by the government should see high school classes put on remote learning from November 24 until January 10.

Let us talk about [Minister of Education and Research] Mailis Reps' decision first. She said she would not resign just two days ago. Why the change of heart?

It is true that today is a very difficult day. I understand Mailis as a fellow human being. I would like to thank her. She has definitely done her job well as four-time education minister. Why did Mailis Reps resign? Those reasons included the pressure she, her children and family were under, which I understand perfectly well and, on the other hand, what she said in practically all interviews about not having been able to successfully marry professional and family life. Mailis Reps took political responsibility for that today.

Is it a matter only of marrying work and family life or did Mailis Reps make too liberal use of state resources?

I believe she has said that it was done on a disproportional scale. And in a situation where she is taking political responsibility today, I'm sure she feels in her heart that her conduct should have been different.

Conservative People's Party (EKRE) MP Mart Helme said on the radio today that EKRE could not support Reps were there a vote of no confidence against the education minister. Was that the deciding factor in Reps' call?

Were we not in the "Aktuaalne kaamera" studio, I would ask you whether I had come on a comedy show. No, it was not the deciding factor.

Let us come to new restrictions the government revealed today and that will be made more concrete by Monday before taking effect. When will they enter into force?

The plan today is to hold a government sitting on Monday and enforce the new measures from November 24 or 12:00 a.m. on Tuesday.

It is suggested masks will become mandatory in indoor public spaces. What is an indoor public space? Are we in such a place right now or what about an office in an office building? Will people have to wear masks at work?

I'm sure a lot of people who have trouble hearing are watching "Aktuaalne kaamera" right now. That is why I believe we should not be wearing masks, especially because there is a safe distance between you and me.

Masks or pieces of clothing to cover a person's face and nose will become mandatory in shops, commercial areas, construction shops, grocery stores, public transport and cultural establishments. That is where masks will become mandatory.

We also decided today that the government wants to make masks available or compensate their cost for less fortunate people and families.

What is the legal basis for obligating people to wear a mask?

That legal basis is found in laws. And the legislation in question also provides for sanctions. The government will make its final decision as concerns particular sections of the law on Monday.

Who will be exercising supervision – salesclerks, bus drivers or policemen?

Supervision will be the task of the Health Board. The latter can also ask the police for help and I'm sure it will, next to involving local law enforcement.

Will the police tell an old lady she cannot take the tram if she doesn't have a mask on?

I believe we can all be creative in such situations and I trust the Estonian police to be professional enough to start with a request and a warning. People for whom wearing a mask is difficult for medical reasons will not be obligated to do it.

In a situation where hobby schools will have to limit the number of activity participants and theaters can accommodate fewer patrons, will you be making available compensation and other measures to ward off bankruptcies, whether we're talking about private or municipal hobby schools?

It is true that hobby activities will be limited to ten participants who will have to wear masks. This does not concern sports and youth sport activities.

And now to answer the question why we are doing all of these things. We are doing it because we are looking at having to cancel 30 percent of planned medical treatments in hospitals by the end of November because of the high number of COVID-19 patients. If we fail to make decisions today, a month from now – just a few days before Christmas – we will have reached a situation where planned treatment needs to be canceled for everyone. In short – we want to spend Christmas with our loved ones and for the situation to be somewhat freer again by then. That requires taking certain measures today.

Still, if you don't mind – will hobby schools and theaters be paid compensation for restrictions on activity and the ability to generate income?

I believe that allowing them to remain open is compensation today. If your question is whether funds have been set aside for compensation in the state budget – they have not at this time.

We want to go over the restrictions every two weeks and decide whether to extend them.

One very important restriction will be switching 10th, 11th and 12th grades in local government and state high schools to remote learning in Harju and Ida-Viru counties from November 24 until January 10 or the end of the Christmas break.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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