New coronavirus restrictions in force from Monday ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

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Stenbock House in Tallinn, seat of the Estonian government. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The latest round of coronavirus restrictions approved by the government enter into force Monday, and include requirements that restaurants cap the number of diners admitted to 50 percent. The restrictions are set to run for two weeks. Schools are on their half-term break, but will be on distance learning from grade five upwards when returning to school next Monday.

The restrictions are as follows:

Restaurants

Restaurants and other eateries can remain open but are subject to a maximum 50 percent occupancy limit. Social distancing must be ensured, with a cap on groups eating in restaurants set at six, while a minimum two meters' distance must be maintained between different dining parties. Monitoring of compliance with the requirements will be stepped up, it is reported. The requirement for restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues to close at 9 p.m. remains in effect.

Public events

Indoor public events are capped at 200 attendees, with a maximum 50 percent occupancy limit. Concerts, cinema screenings and other performances can go ahead, but masks are mandatory, and seating must be arranged to ensure social distancing.

This particularly affects independence day, February 24, which the government is urging be marked through small family gatherings only. The traditional independence day parade and presidential evening reception were already canceled some weeks ago.

Sports training

Sports training for both adults and children can only take place individually, with no groups permitted. This restriction is set to run for two weeks.

Swimming pools, spas and water parks

Spa centers and water parks are closed for two weeks, from next week, meaning children on their break will not be able to engage in this pastime. The rationale presented is that water and sewage surveys after the last school holidays showed spa centers had been a vector for viral spread.

Swimming pools may only be used for sports training rather than leisure, though the restriction does not apply to professional sports activities taking place in the competitive system overseen by sports governing bodies, and it also does not apply to the disabled.

Travel

The government has called for refraining from travel not only abroad, but also inside Estonia.

Employers and employees

On announcing the new regulations last week, the prime minister urged all employers whose staff can feasibly work remotely from home to do so or continue doing so.

Public transport

Checks on public transport to ensure compliance with mask-wearing requirements should be stepped up, the prime minister said last week.

Education

This week, i.e. the week commencing February 22, is the half-term break in Estonia, hence the switch the distance learning, which applies from fifth grade upwards, begins the following Monday when the schools return. It will run for one week as things stand (i.e. to March 7).

Children in first through fourth grade, and special needs children, will be able to have in-class lessons, while extra-curricular hobby groups will be permitted only for those groups who meet in school and involve pupils from the same regular classes.

Restrictions set to run for two weeks

The restrictions are set to run for two weeks, subject to review, the government says. Primary indicators for any lifting of the measures are a falling rate of infection, and fewer than 500 people hospitalized due to coronavirus, the government said last week.

Addtionally, the government extended restrictions on the sale of alcohol under the current regime to the end of April. These restrictions, which had been set to expire at the end of February, bar alcohol sales at any location after 10 p.m. and before 10 a.m. the following day. Bars, pubs and other venues have to close at 9 p.m. in any case.

The government approved the restrictions on Friday, and they can be read on the government's website here (in Estonian).

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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