Association regards government decision to shut down culture groundless

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Margus Allikmaa. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

The government has not sufficiently and clearly explained its decision to order museums and theaters that sport a low risk of infection to close, the Estonian Association of Performing Arts Institutions finds in a letter sent to PM Kaja Kallas.

Chairman of the association Margus Allikmaa emphasizes in his letter that the government's decision to close cultural institutions has not been sufficiently explained nor is it grounded in legislation.

"The government has banned cultural events with stationary seating, while it has failed to give a single reason in its directive or its explanatory memo as to why closures are unavoidable from the point of view of combating the virus or how changes in a field where the reproduction rate (R) is lower than one in practice and scientific theory can help curb the epidemic," Allikmaa writes.

He goes on to suggest that the same applies to museums where guests can be dispersed more successfully than in shopping centers, adding that the necessity of closing museums has also not been demonstrated.

"The order and its explanatory memorandum cover the general situation in Estonia, compare the rate of infection to the rest of Europe and find it is considerably greater in Estonia. Different indicators being above or below the international average does not constitute (legal) grounds for restrictions. The latter need to be weighed based on the situation in Estonia and its laws," the address reads.

Allikmaa writes that dialing back cultural activity to keep the hospital network from being overwhelmed is understandable. "However, the government's order and explanatory memo fail to demonstrate a causal link between cultural events and keeping hospitals running," he adds.

The head of the association also points to lack of clarity in government communication in a situation where messages from February 25 suggested cultural institutions need to close from March 1, while it was communicated the next day that the closures would enter into force from March 3.

"Theaters reacted to the government's words and started canceling plays, learning only later that the message had changed. A number of performances scheduled for March 1-2 were canceled because of the government's unclear messages," he adds.

Allikmaa explained that the result is unnecessary financial damage and dissatisfaction among patrons and salespeople.

He also points out that the explanatory memorandum should reference specific recommendations made by the COVID-19 scientific council to allow people to get an idea of the basis of measures.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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