'Olukorrast riigis': New measures hold controversies

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Harry Tuul and Andrus Karnau. Source: Kairit Leibold /ERR

In a situation where the government has ordered schools to close doors and banned swimming practice, bars remain open and people are still free to spread the coronavirus in churches, host Andrus Karnau said on the Raadio 2 "Olukorrast riigis" talk show on Sunday.

"Measures hit education, while entertainment establishments are still open. The other blow landed in the field of sport, more specifically swimming pools – swimming practice is off limits. But spas remain open. The [government's] restrictions package includes some very "interesting" controversies – churches and bars remain open," Karnau said, adding that the reason is money.

"New restrictions on business for bars would obligate the government to come up with a compensation scheme, while the state budget is what it is – it's difficult to cough up compensation when you're broke. To put it very cynically, a child attending class yields nothing for the treasury, while someone knocking back drinks until 10 p.m. means excise revenue. There is that controversy in the measures," Karnau pointed out.

The host added that preferential treatment of alcohol producers and churches is hardly new for Jüri Ratas' second government.

"The entire policy of Ratas' second government has catered to alcohol producers – I am mostly referring to the decision to lower the excise duty – and the current situation where bars are still open, even though their opening hours have been cut twice. Thinking back to spring, we did not see a complete ban on the sale of alcohol that once again catered to producers. When it comes to churches, radicals in the government have always emphasized Christianity. Just like Christians got almost everything they wanted under Donald Trump in USA, Jüri Ratas' second government has pursued the same policy in Estonia – church circles get what they ask for," Karnau said, adding that the situation is a clear reflection of the government's priorities: while schools have been ordered to cancel Christmas parties, all Christians can attend church and spread the coronavirus alongside holiday cheer. "A government minister believing that the virus cannot spread in a sanctified place is of little use in the real world."

The host said that it is clear politicians need to demonstrate their necessity to the voter in a situation where the virus is spreading faster instead of subsiding.

"However, if those reactions are ill-considered, the result will frankly be the opposite in making the government look like it doesn't know what it's doing. For almost a year, the government's coronavirus decisions have suggested we have fifteen hobby virologists convening in Stenbock House – instead of listening to what experts or the Health Board are saying – and while I understand that the Health Board has switched from recommendations to compliance under new management, its proposals should have been heeded at least until now."

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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