New restrictions: Eating establishments, shops to close at weekends

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A closed restaurant in Tallinn. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Eating establishments and shops will close at weekends from Saturday (March 6) but will remain open during the week, the government agreed on Tuesday. The new restrictions will also impact on sports events and education.

In brief - new restrictions from March 6:

  • Eating establishments and non-essential stores will be closed at weekends from March 6.
  • Eating establishments and stores will have 25 percent occupancy limits from March 6.
  • Students taking final exams this year can return to partial distance learning from March 15.
  • Sports and exercise events will be permitted for professional athletes only and people with special needs will be permitted to take part in exercise events.

In addition, the government urges people to reduce their contacts to a minimum and only meet in groups of up to six people. Employers and employees are advised to switch to working remotely if possible.

The restrictions will take effect on Saturday, March 6 to slow the rapid spread of coronavirus. They will remain in place until March 28 for the time being.

The government is to decide upon additional support measures for impacted sectors this week.

Restaurants and stores

From Saturday, on weekends, non-essential stores and eating establishments will be closed. During the week, stores and eateries will have a 25 percent occupancy rate. Grocery stores, pharmacies, pet stores, garden centers and opticians will remain open on weekends.

Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab (Center) told ETV's "Aktuaalne Kaamera" on Tuesday evening: "The principle is that on weekends the situation dictates that we need to keep contacts to a minimum. On weekends not only shopping malls but all shops, except maybe in construction or horticultural shops, will be closed and on weekdays all shops will be open normal hours."

A reduction in working hours for stores was also considered, he said, but ultimately rejected because this would have the opposite effect as lots of people would visit stores at the same time.

He said the new restrictions were created due to the rapid rise in new cases of coronavirus. Last week, more than 8,000 new cases were diagnosed compared to 5,500 the week before.

Aab said the government has followed the recommendations of the scientific advisory council although it has not totally restricted trade as strongly as advised. He said stores suggested the 25 percent occupancy rate themselves.

Outdoor sales areas, such as markets, will also be subject to social distancing rules.

Aab said it is important to avoid socializing on weekends: "We very much hope that these restrictions will at least stabilize the number [of new cases] and bring it down. The situation is very serious, the numbers have increased a lot in the last week and the northern region, Tallinn, is where the critical limit is approaching."

Education

Additionally, students who are to take final and national examinations this spring will be permitted to resume partial contact learning from March 15. The government is planning to issue the corresponding order on Wednesday.

Sports and exercise events

Sports and exercise events will be permitted for professional athletes only and people with special needs will be permitted to take part in exercise events. By the government's decision, the Haanja Marathon of the Estoloppet ski marathon series scheduled for March 6 is to be canceled.

In addition to said restrictions, the government urges people to reduce their contacts to a minimum and only meet in groups of up to six people. Employers and employees are advised to switch to working remotely if possible.

The new restrictions can be read on the government's website in English.

The last set of restrictions came into effect on Monday.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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