Churches and other venues of religious proceedings will only remain open if the government's coronavirus measures are followed to a tee, Minister of Population Riina Solman said.
The government decided not to close churches during a time when the virus is actively spreading in the interests of people's mental and spiritual well-being, while police checks have revealed that churches are ignoring certain rules.
Several churches were caught overlooking measures last week – whether in terms of the maximum capacity requirement or the obligation to wear a mask.
People belonging to risk groups but also all other members of congregations could observe services online, the Ministry of Internal Affairs said.
Services and other religious rites need to observe the 50 percent capacity and 2+2 social distancing rules.
People over the age of 12, with the exception of those who cannot do so for health reasons, are obligated to wear a mask during services. There is no other acceptable reason for an adult to refuse wearing a mask. Members of the clergy must set an example.
Clergymen and women must also wear a mask and other protective gear, such as rubber gloves, when performing rites that require close contact (communion).
It is unacceptable when members of the clergy create an atmosphere where wearing a mask is ridiculed or considered a sign of weak faith, the ministry said.
Hands and liturgical items need to be disinfected after they have been touched. A chalice cannot be shared for communion nor a communion spoon in the Orthodox tradition.
Things people touch, such as icons, crosses and prayer books that are used by the entire congregation, need to be disinfected. Churches and congregations must minimize the chance that people touch icons and crosses with their hands or lips or thoroughly disinfect them after every contact.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs has asked for understanding when services and other religious events are paid a visit by police or Health Board officials who are tasked with monitoring compliance.
Christmas peace to be declared in Jõgeva on Sunday
Archbishop of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church Urmas Viilma will declare Christmas peace for all of Estonia in Jõgeva at 4 p.m. on Sunday.
The Christmas peace fire will be lit by Archbishop Viilma, President Kersti Kaljulaid and President of the Riigikogu Henn Põlluaas. Everyone who so wishes can use a lantern to take the Christmas fire home.
The nationwide Christmas peace will be declared in Jõgeva for the 15th time.
Editor: Marcus Turovski