Government approves new nationwide coronavirus restrictions

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Empty restaurant tables (photo is illustrative). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The government has approved an order which harmonizes coronavirus restrictions nationwide. Previously, Harju County, the most populous region and hardest-hit by the pandemic in recent months, and Ida-Viru County also seeing high coronavirus rates, had had different and more stringent regulations applied, since late last year..

There is, nonetheless, a regional difference on when the new regime starts to apply. Whereas it will enter into force on Monday, February 1, in Harju and Ida-Viru counties, the changes only apply to the remaining 13 counties from two days later, on the Wednesday.

The government announced the new restrictions Thursday evening, while they were approved as per protocol Friday afternoon.

While there has been a change in government since the existing restrictions – which remain in place until the new regulations enter into force – were put in place, the largest party in the previous coalition, Center, remains in office, while its health and labor minister Tanel Kiik held the equivalent post (then called Minister of Social Affairs) in the last administration.

The new restrictions will apply in Harju and Ida-Viru counties from Monday (February 1) and replace the rules currently in place.

The rules listed below will apply nationwide from Wednesday (February 3).

See the list on the government's website.

Nationwide restrictions from February 3

Entertainment establishments, bars, restaurants etc

Food service companies and recreational establishments may be open until 9 p.m.

Customers are allowed to stay in restaurants, bars, cafes, nightclubs, bowling alleys and similar venues until 9 p.m. No restrictions apply to the sale of food for takeaway at food service companies.

Only groups of up to six are allowed and they must be seated 2 meters from the nearest table.

The ban on the late-night sale of alcohol until 10 a.m. will continue to apply.

The maximum limit at recreational establishments will be 50 percent of capacity.

Stores and shopping malls

The current rules will continue to apply: facemasks must be worn, the 2+2 rule must be observed, 50 percent occupancy and disinfectants must be available.

Public meetings and events

A 50 percent occupancy limit in the seating area will be imposed for public meetings and events with fixed seating

The maximum number of people in attendance can be 400, as now.

Guests must be seated in static numbered seats and the dispersion requirement must be observed.

Activities without static seating are forbidden between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Outdoor events

The 500 people limit at outdoor events, such as fairs and concerts, will continue to apply.

Events cannot take place between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Religious services

A 50 percent capacity rule will be introduced and people must be dispersed.

The current rule capping participants at 250 in places without fixed seating and at 400 with it, will continue to apply. At outdoor religious services, the limit is 500.

Saunas, spas, swimming pools

Saunas, spas, aquaparks and swimming pools will have a capacity limit of 50 percent and the 2+2 rule must be followed.

A mask must be worn when not in direct contact with water, disinfectants must be available and disinfection requirements must be observed. 

Indoor events, hobby activities

The 2+2 rule at indoor sports activities, training, youth work, hobby activities and hobby education, refresher training must be followed when contact activities entailing a high risk of the spread of the virus are taking place.

These are defined as activities where intensive inhaling and exhaling of air and the formation of aerosols takes place and include singing, dancing, martial arts, playing of wind instruments, and other similar activities.

Painting, pilates, guitar lessons, ceramics classes as similar, can be conducted in groups of 10+1 and have been labeled low risk.

A list of low-risk and high-risk activities will be compiled by the Health Board.

Masks

The obligation to wear a mask indoors will continue to apply.

Groups 

The number of people allowed in a group outside will rise from 25 to 50 people, including for outdoor sports competitions and sports for all events. Groups in such competitions must not come into contact with one another.

These restrictions do not apply to activities carried out under the national curriculum, to professional sports activities held within the competition framework of a sports association, to professional athletes and members and candidates of Estonian adult and youth teams, to activities relating to national military defense and internal security, and to people with special needs, including the provision of social and employment-related rehabilitation services.

Museums

This 2+2 rule and obligation to wear a mask indoors remains in place. 

Government approves EU Council's travel restriction recommendations

The government has also approved proposals to restrict non-essential movement within the EU and between third countries to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The rules included coronavirus testing before traveling and on arrival and self-isolation requirements.

The proposal for intra-EU movement includes a new high risk category that applies to areas with an infection rate of more than 500 per 100,000 inhabitants in a 14 day period.

Member states will also require arrivals from third countries to present a negative PCR on arrival and a self-isolation requirement will apply for both non-essential and essential travel, with the exception of transport and cross-border workers.

MEPs will discuss the recommendations on travel within the EU on January 29. The recommendations aim to coordinate and harmonize restrictions on free movement in the event of a pandemic.

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Editor: Helen Wright, Andrew Whyte

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