The Estonian government at an e-sitting on Friday approved more stringent measures for curbing the spread of the coronavirus which will remain in force until March 28. The rules come into effect on March 1 and March 3.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said that taking into consideration proposals by researchers, the government established supplementary rules in all of Estonia because the number of infections as well as hospitalized people has grown rapidly over the past few weeks. With the new restrictions, the government seeks to ensure hospitals' capability to admit new patients and continue scheduled treatment.
The objective of the restrictions is to stabilize and subsequently reduce both the infection rate as well as the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals. For that purpose, the number of contacts between people and growth in the spread of the virus must be reduced.
"As long as the spread of the virus remains high and the number of vaccinated people is still insufficient, we need to make a joint effort and adhere to the agreed rules. People's sense of responsibility is very important in addition to the restrictions. We need to all reduce our close contacts and protect ourselves by keeping a distance and wearing a mask," she said.
Contact learning will continue in general education schools from March 1 - 28 only in grades 1-4. Other students are not permitted in school buildings during this period and this includes vocational schools, professional higher education institutions and universities.
Being present in school buildings is only permitted when students need to receive educational support services, undergoing practical training, taking examinations or tests or participating in olympiads.
Social distancing and the 2+2 rule must be followed by students and staff. Education institutions must also ensure that older students, teachers and all other employees wear a mask. Children aged below 12 are not required to wear a mask.
The restrictions do not apply to schools where most students are receiving enhanced or special support and to activities of disabled people. The restrictions will also not apply to educational establishments with separate groups for students with special educational needs or in need of support services.
Hobby education, in-service training, education and youth work and sports
Indoor group activities and training will be prohibited in hobby education and recreational activities, refresher training and education, youth work and sport of children, young people and adults until March 28.
Activities and training carried out either alone or in pairs, for instance with a personal trainer or training partner, are permitted when a distance of at least two people are kept from other people. The restriction does not apply to families. In individual sports, such as tennis, doubles matches are also permitted.
From March 3, the 50-percent cap on occupancy indoors will be reduced to 25 percent. In order to guarantee sufficient dispersion and safety, it is recommended that each pair of people engaging in training activities be ensured an area of 20 square meters.
Outdoor sports activities, training, youth work, hobby education and recreational activities, refresher training and continuing educations will be permitted for groups of ten people instead of the current 50 from March 3. Groups must not come into contact with one another.
The restrictions do not apply to children in the same kindergarten group or to pupils who are permitted to be present in a school building and who are studying in the same group. The restrictions also do not apply to professional sports and activities of disabled people.
Sports competitions and events are generally prohibited with an exception granted to sports competitions without spectators held in the competition system of a sports association as well as to members and candidates of Estonian adult and youth teams and to players of master league teams in team sports.
Indoor public religious services and other religious gatherings as well as public meetings, including conferences, theater performances, concerts and movie screenings, both with and without fixed seating, are prohibited from March 3 to 28. The restrictions do not concern events streamed online with no other participants than the performers and the streaming staff. Participants must nonetheless follow the 2+2 rule and disinfection requirements.
Public meetings, events, services, entertainment
Being present and moving around is likewise prohibited from March 3 to 28 in other places of entertainment, such as casinos, nightclubs, bowling and billiard courts and children's playrooms as well as in museums and galleries.
Entertainment, religious services, events and meetings as well as visiting museums and exhibitions is permitted in outdoor environments for groups of up to 10 people, and the groups must not come into contact with one another. Events are prohibited from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Saunas, spas, swimming pools, water parks and swimming pools
Being present in public saunas, spas, pools and water parks is generally prohibited until March 28. Moving around in these establishments is permitted in their service areas, such as hairdressing and manicure salons.
Using accommodation services and visiting restaurants will also remain permitted in these establishments on the condition that other rules imposed on them are being adhered to. Using indoor pools is permitted for individual activities.
Catering establishments must close at 6 p.m. from March 3, after which only the sale of meals for takeaway remains permitted. The 50-percent cap on occupancy remains in place, and the 2+2 rule must be adhered to on the premises. The restriction does not apply to families. A mask must be worn when moving around in catering establishments.
The restrictions on opening hours and occupancy are not valid on board aircraft used for international passenger services and at sales venues in the security area of the passenger terminal of an international airport or in the waiting area of an international port located on the other side of boarding gates or on board passenger ferries. The restrictions on opening hours also do not apply to gas stations provided that the service provider ensures that customers do not consume their food or drinks at the facility.
The government has established supplementary measures due to the coronavirus spreading extensively everywhere in Estonia and the infection rate being very high. The supplementary measures are aimed at reducing contacts to a greater degree to prevent the spread of the virus.
Editor: Helen Wright