New rules which will see the closure of entertainment venues, restaurants and gyms until mid-January entered into force on Monday (December 28) throughout Harju County in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
The government agreed on the new rules last week and they will be in place until at least January 17 and echo similar rules in place in Ida-Viru County. €23 million has been set aside to help affected businesses.
While entertainment venues must shut, shopping malls and churches will remain open with reduced capacity.
The new restrictions have been introduced as the coronavirus infection rate in Harju County has been rising since mid-October. The number of hospital admissions is growing quickly and coronavirus is spreading among hospital staff putting additional strain on the healthcare system which is fast reaching its limit.
In a statement last week, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said: "We have to make difficult decisions to protect our medical system from overload and ensure access to medical care."
He said existing measures have not slowed the growth of the virus fast enough.
"Based on the opinion of the scientific council and the Estonian Health Board, the Government decided to impose more extensive restrictions in Harju County and Tallinn in order to break the chain of connections causing the spread of infection," Ratas said.
The government's restrictions have been reprinted in full below:
It is not allowed to provide any entertainment services anywhere - casinos, bowling and billiard halls, adult clubs or on the premises of accommodation facilities. Accommodation establishments may continue to provide accommodation services.
All sales and service premises of catering companies must be closed to customers. Food takeaway and related delivery services are permitted.
All sports facilities must be closed for visitors, including sports clubs, saunas, spas, swimming pools, water parks. Restrictions do not apply to professional athletes, including national championship teams, team members and team candidates. There is also no restrictions for people with special needs.
It is not allowed to hold public meetings and events, including conferences, theatre performances, concerts, and indoor cinema viewings. Museums and exhibitions must also be closed to visitors. Up to 10 people can take part in public events and meetings outdoors.
Indoor youth work, hobby activities and informal education, further training, and continuous education, as well as sports and coaching activities, are prohibited. All these activities are allowed outdoors for a group of up to 10 people and a coach.
Kindergartens and childcare facilities will remain open, but guidelines issued by the Health Board and local government to prevent the spread of the virus must be followed.
50 percent use of maximum capacity restriction will apply to public religious services from December 24. A 50 percent maximum capacity rule will be applied to worship and religious services throughout Estonia in order to avoid the risk of the coronavirus spreading during the Christmas holidays. Masks must be worn indoors, disinfection requirements must be met and other measures to prevent the spread of the virus must be followed.
Restrictions on educational activities for general education schools will remain in place nationally until the end of the school holidays, January 10. (inclusive)
The Government extended restrictions on educational activities until January 10, 2021 (inclusive). The extension of restrictions affects general education schools, vocational training institutions, universities of applied sciences, and universities. Those schools where the break ends before January 10, years 1 to 4 may return to school for classes. The restrictions, which will come into force after January 10, will be discussed by the Government at a cabinet meeting next week.
The Government has also discussed sector-based compensations for restrictions that significantly affect economic life in Harju County and compensations arising from the extension of restrictions in Ida-Viru County. The measures total €23 million.
Compensation measures for businesses in Harju County are aimed at the accommodation, catering, entertainment (casinos) services, as well as culture, sports, private education, and hobby activities.
The content of the measures is the compensation for taxes on labor according to the employment data in the county, as well as the subsidies directed through the field of culture and education.
Coronavirus situation in Harju County
On Sunday (December 27), the Health Board's northern regional department was monitoring almost 17,000 people for coronavirus and of those approximately 4,330 have fallen ill with the COVID-19.
In total, 13,538 cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed in the county since February and the 14-day infection rate is currently 712.2 per 100,000 inhabitants - in comparison, Estonia's rate is 552.08. Harju's is not the highest, Ida-Viru County's rate is currently 969.02 per 100,000 people.
There are estimated to be 4,309 active cases in Harju County and the majority are in Tallinn. Before Christmas, the city's largest district Lasnamäe had the highest rate of infection followed by the City Center.
Additional restrictions were introduced in Harju County at the start of December to slow the spread of the virus which made wearing masks and following the 2+2 rule in indoor public spaces mandatory and forced bars and restaurants to close at 10 p.m. Schools were also required to move to distance learning. It was hoped these measures would slow the growth of the virus.
Below you can see the total number of infections diagnosed each week in the six counties with the highest number of cases. To add or remove data from the graph click the colored dots.
How can the spread of coronavirus be stopped?
- The most efficient measure is keeping your distance.
- In crowded places and especially indoors where it is not possible to keep your distance from other people, it is advisable to wear a mask.
- Closed, crowded spaces should be avoided if possible.
- Hands must be washed frequently with soap and warm water.
- When you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth and nose with disposable tissue.
- Anyone who becomes ill should stay at home, even if their symptoms are mild.
- People who develop any symptoms should contact their family physician.
You can also download Estonia's coronavirus exposure notification app HOIA which will alert you if you have been in close contact with someone who later tests positive for coronavirus.
Editor: Helen Wright