Government approves lock-down measures starting Thursday

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Stenbock House in Tallinn, seat of the Estonian government. Source: Kaupo Kalda/ Stenbock House

The government has approved the latest round of coronavirus regulations announced Monday evening, which will put the country in effective lock-down from Thursday.

The restrictions come into effect on Thursday, March 11, and are valid for one month, to April 11, as things stand.

The restrictions, the third set to be unveiled in the past week-and-a-half, will see among other things the 2+2 rule being mandatory in all public places, including outdoor spaces not only in urban environments such as in the street or in parks, but also outside the city, and adds to the requirement already being in place in indoor public places.

Families are excepted from this rule. Other restrictions include a requirement for stores to close, other than those selling essential goods, and schools being on remote learning.

The government approved the new measures at an e-sitting Tuesday afternoon.

Flights are still working, since an emergency situation is required to halt these, the prime minister says.

The move comes after 133 coronavirus cases, particularly the more virulent, so-called British and South African strains, which arrived from other countries have been reported in the first week of March. The largest proportion of these introduced cases, 29, originated in Russia, with 24 coming from Finland, 22 originating in Spain and 14 from Sweden.

A total of 136 cases of the British strain of the virus and one of the South African have so far been detected in Estonia.

The restrictions will initially be in place from March 11 until April 11.

However, the government said restrictions will be eased when the spread of the coronavirus in Estonia has been reduced to a level that does not endanger the medical system's ability to function.

The full restrictions as announced by the government Monday evening are as follows:

The 2+2 rule will have to be followed outside as well

In order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the 2+2 movement restriction will be enacted to moving around in public outdoor spaces, which means that up to two people may move around together, keeping a distance of 2 metres from others. The restriction does not apply to families and in situations where it cannot be observed.

Education

The Government is very strongly recommending that children are not taken to kindergarten or child care unless it is urgently necessary. The Ministry of Education and Research is issuing guidelines on how to organise work in a pre-school child care facility as safely as possible.

Starting from March 11, students in grades 1 to 4 are not allowed to be in the school buildings anymore either, and those preparing for the basic school final exams and state exams will not be allowed to have contact learning. It is still foreseen that in emergency cases, primary school students may continue to spend time in school buildings and participate in activities organised there.

Taking into account the restrictions enacted to stop the spread of the coronavirus, spending time in school buildings is allowed to a student who needs educational support services, consultations in order to achieve learning results, participating in practical learning, or taking exams or tests.

Sports, training, youth work, hobby activities, informal education and refresher training

Starting from March 11, all indoor activities in the listed sectors are prohibited. The restriction does not extend to people with special needs and rehabilitation activities.

All outdoor hobby and informal education activities, refresher training, youth work, sports and training are only allowed if the 2+2 movement restriction is adhered to. This means that no more than 2 people can move around and do sports together (including an instructor), keeping a distance of at least 2 metres from others. The restrictions do not apply to the activities of people with special needs, including the provision of social and occupational rehabilitation services.

The restrictions on doing sports indoors and outdoors also do not extend to professional athletes, members of the national team, candidates of the national team. Neither do these restrictions extend to the activities related to the military defence and internal security of the state.

Sports competitions, sports and exercise events are prohibited

Sports competitions continue to be allowed only for professionals but the sports competitions of the second national league will be prohibited. No more than 50 people may participate in sports competitions and sports and exercise events indoors, and no more than 100 people outdoors.

As it was previously, the restriction on exercise events continues to not apply to the activities of people with special needs and rehabilitation activities. Similarly to the current order, the restriction on sports competitions does not extend to professional athletes, members of the national team, candidates of the national team and the highest national leagues. The restrictions do not extent the activities related to the military defence and internal security of the state.

Public events, culture, entertainment, spas, pools and saunas

Starting from March 11 it is also prohibited to carry out outdoor public events, and to be in places where entertainment services are provided, whether the venues have permanent or temporary seating. Spas, pools, saunas and swimming facilities must also be closed.

Only outdoor public meetings and public worship services can be held, the participants are limited to groups of up to 10 people. It is allowed to be at outdoor exhibition spaces of museums while following the 2+2 rule and it must be calculated that the occupancy of an area with an enclosed space is no more than 25 percent.

Catering establishments

Catering establishments will only be allowed to sell food for takeaway.

Stores and shopping centers

Starting from March 11, the stores must be closed. The restriction does not apply to grocery stores, pharmacies, stores that sell aid equipment and medical devices, the sales points of telecommunications enterprises, optical stores, pet stores and filling stations. It is not allowed to eat and drink on site at a filling station cafe.

The stores that will remain open have to take into account the requirement that the occupancy of their space cannot exceed 25 percent, and the 2+2 movement restriction.

In other cases, the only allowed forms of selling are the so-called selling from a window, where the goods will be issued to the customer without the customer entering an indoor sales space; drive-in type of selling and selling in outdoor spaces. The store keeper must ensure that the customers do not come into contact with each other.

Service providers

Enterprises providing services may continue their activities but the occupancy requirement will become more stringent – the previous 50 percent maximum occupancy will be reduced to 25 percent. All rules intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus must be followed: the 2+2 rule, mask wearing, adhering to the disinfection requirements in accordance with the guidelines of the Health Board.

In addition to the restrictions, the Government strongly recommends avoiding contacts with other people, and if a meeting is urgently necessary, not holding it with more than six people at once.

More detailed information on where to find up-to-date restrictions and other aspects of the coronavirus situation in Estonia is here.

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Editor: Helen Wright, Andrew Whyte

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