While the government has as its goal avoiding total lockdown for Christmas, new and more stringent coronavirus regulations cannot be ruled out between now and then, social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center) told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK).
"Unfortunately, the possibility of additional restrictions cannot be ruled out," Kiik told AK.
"We need to take a look at the infection rate, see how many new outbreaks there are, if there are infection issues in certain areas, and react accordingly."
This meant that tighter restrictions over Christmas were possible, but depended also on the actions of the public and the authorities, he said.
Kiik said: "The government has set as its goal not to lock down this time around. We have managed pretty well, with the public's behavior, responsible businesses, and the local authorities, and I hope this can be seen through to year-end."
Kiik also noted that the two most heavily-affected regions of Estonia, also two of its most populous counties, Harju and Ida-Viru, are seeing additional restrictions of their own.
Kiik said: "The official government order coming Friday (today – ed.) will concern hobby and sporting activities. Whereas up to now there has been a limit of 10 people per sports training session, in Ida-Viru County it will now involve going to the gym solo, or you can still have piano or language lessons with a teacher. But a variety of types of groups are barred for up to two weeks."
Restrictions reviewed every fortnight
Two weeks is the standard period after which existing restrictions are reviewed, he added.
"In general, we have extended restrictions but if we see a falling infection rate then it is also possible to dispense with some of the restrictions. Again, it depends on the public's behavior and the infection rates in the coming weeks."
While schools are combining remote learning with in-class activities, in Tallinn, Harju County and Ida-Viru county the emphasis has been on the first of these, with no likelihood of a change, Kiik said, as the government does not want too much of a switching back and forth in its regulations.
When schools return after the Christmas and New Year break, on Monday, January 10, the hope is that in-class education will generally be restored, Kiik added.
The virus has spread among educational institutions, he noted, including in extra-curricular activities and groups, and these non-essential areas have seen the greatest amount of restriction.
Vaccinations should hopefully start in January, Kiik added, though this also depended on the European Commission and the European Medicines Agency. Front-line health-care workers and others at the highest risk and whose inoculation was in the public interest would be the first to get any vaccine that comes, Kiik added.
Editor: Andrew Whyte