Health Board director Üllar Lanno responded to public criticism of the government's decision to close schools and hobby groups while leaving churches open by saying that measures regarding children are most efficient in lessening the spread of COVID-19.
Minister of Population Riina Solman (Isamaa) warned on Sunday that churches and other venues of religious proceedings can only remain open if the government's coronavirus measures are followed to a tee.
Health Board director Üllar Lanno said churches are not preferred over schools, hobby groups and sports and that it is currently a difficult time for all, ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Sunday.
"There are measures that are a little more efficient than others. Whether we like it or not, restrictions regarding children are ones today that are most efficient in decreasing spread," Lanno said.
On Sunday, several congregations in Estonia streamed their services. There were some conducted without any songs whatsoever and a few that replaced their full choir with a couple of singers. Compared to other holiday periods, there were very few people in church on the third Advent.
Lanno confirmed the population minister's warning and said that churches can only remain open if they follow government directives. Ministry of the Interior head chaplain Ove Sander said churches hope to be open during the holidays.
"We are offering many services in different churches so people could come after pre-registering. And we have certainly emphasized that Christmas services can also be held in fresh air," Sander said.
The rules on avoiding coronavirus spread in churches will be made clear this week. "We already agreed with the interior ministry's religious services department and the Health Board to draft up a text that considers the current epidemiological situation and has clear directives on holding Christmas," the head chaplain added.
Lanno noted that there is no single measures that saves everyone from infection and that all movement and activities must be assessed. He recommends working from home and avoiding crowded areas.
"Whether it be Christmas shopping in stores, religious services, concerts or a restaurant. Let's try and understand there is too much infection among us to be incredulous and to think it will not happen to you. It is possible to receive the infection everywhere," Lanno said.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste