Traders concerned by security shortage, quarrelsome customers
The Estonian Traders' Association has introduced new rules to stop the transmission of coronavirus inside shopping malls this week, but issues around a lack of security staff and non-member centers still persist.
Last week the government said shopping malls can remain open but only as long as owners and retailers take extra precautions to enforce social distancing and compliance with mask wearing. Many have now hired additional security guards to help enforce these rules.
CEO of the Estonian traders' Association Nele Peil said the association's goal this week is to get the majority of traders to agree to follow the restrictions. However, she said not everyone can be convinced.
"After all, the Estonian Traders' Association has no way of using force against companies that are not part of our union. There is only moral condemnation [if they don't]," she told ERR, but added there will likely be severe consequences if organizations do not follow the rules.
"If malls now refuse to comply with these national requirements on the surface and continue to serve people who do not wear masks, it is very likely that shopping centers and shops across Estonia will be closed," Peil said.
Last week dozens of stores said they would follow the rules implemented by the government.
Marketing manager Mathhias Vutt at the Astri Group, which owns malls in Tallinn, Tartu and Narva, told ERR on Monday the majority of customers have been compliant so far but not everyone.
"There are people who understand. There are people who call the police and the police then have to explain to them that this is a private center and there are certain rules and, unfortunately, they are not obliged to let you in [without a mask]," Vutt said.
Vallo Koppel, head of the strategy at the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), said the police have dealt with approximately 20 altercations due to mask wearing. Some have come from customers and others from security staff.
Security division director of security services company G4S Villu Õun said many malls have increased their security staff and some have even doubled the number of staff they usually have.
He said it is possible there could be a shortage of security workers, especially if some malls or stores have left hiring additional people until now.
One such company is Kroonikeskus, which owns stores in Võru, Tartu, Jõhvi and Rakvere. Member of the company's management board Urmas Sardis said, that despite not being a member of the Estonian traders' Association, the company is following the rules and will hire staff in the coming weeks.
However, Sardis said he wants to see stricter legal rules in place to deter rule challengers.
Minister of the Interior Kristian Jaani (Center) told newspaper Postimees on Tuesday that security guards have the right to enforce and check people are wearing masks. He said if the rules are not followed then security staff have the right to remove people from their premises.
He also reminded people that wearing a mask in indoor public spaces has been a requirement since November.
On Monday, Postimees reported the police were called when a 34-year-old man refused to wear a mask in Rocca Al Mare shopping mall in Tallinn and pushed over a member of security.
Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!
Editor: Helen Wright