Health minister: Rules on events will change during summer

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VIljandi Folk Music Festival in 2019. Source: press materials

Minister of Health and Labour Tanel Kiik (Center) told ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" that rules imposed on organizing mass events will change in the second half of summer, affecting both event duration and visitor numbers.

On Thursday, the government established restrictions for the organization of culture and sports events with spectators, allowing events to be organized for up to 600 people indoors and 1,000 people outdoors from June 14. Dispersal is required and a 50 percent occupancy limit must be considered throughout. Both indoors and outdoors, events must end no later than by midnight.

Event organizers approve of the new solutions, but note that details still need to work out multiple details to avoid infections on the event grounds and entrances.

Event organization and catering associations have proposed to the government that events could be capped at 50 percent capacity, which could be increased with proof of vaccination or recovery. The government discussed the proposal, but found that the solution would still put uninfected people at risk and would not be safe, as distancing cannot be ensured with a large number of spectators.

The government then drew up another solution: organizers can sell more tickets than the capacity limit, but only allow people to events if they have a digital certificate of vaccination or recovery, starting June 14. For this to not discriminate others, however, a negative test within the previous 72 hours or a rapid test at the event would also be sufficient. In this case, outdoor events with up top 6,000 people could be organized, but discussions are still ongoing. New developments are set to come out on Tuesday.

Minister of Health and Labour Tanel Kiik (Center) joined ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Friday to discuss restrictions imposed on the organization of culture and sports events.

Let's start with the so-called checked people - why should a party wrap up by midnight and will you go over the regulation again at some point?

Currently, the midnight limit is established from June 14. Actually, if you are looking at the summer, the second half of summer, June even, will see these regulations change. Both the duration and the number of spectators will change based on the epidemiological situation.

So this is something like a first attempt?

Absolutely. And we will have to ease restrictions gradually. We are not able to say concretely what the situation will be at the end of the first half of June. But as of the current trend, which I dare say is very positive, we can see that infections are going down, vaccine coverage is increasing and that gives us an opportunity to continue easing restrictions.

Speaking about rapid testing conducted at event entrances, people under the age of 16 seem to be under attack. They have not had the opportunity to get vaccinated yet - their coverage rate is 15 percent. Is this not a little unfair?

Nobody is under attack. The question is that we have a certain number of events, mass events, that are impossible to organize in one case in that they will exceed the occupancy limit. Another option is to develop these trust measures that would allow for them to be organized. And that is our goal. Meaning, all smaller events can continue, restaurants, malls can continue. But if large events are organized, it is reasonable to impose these measures.

What must a concert organizer do if more people than expected show up for rapid testing at the entrance - in the thousands?

These risks must be assessed, of course. But large numbers are not too realistic. A group of people are vaccinated, a part have recovered. There are some 350,000-400,000 people in Estonian society at this point - completely vaccinated and recovered people. This number increases with each day.

At the same time, there will certainly be those who want to get tested. There are multiple options here, as well. You could do a PCR test earlier, 48-72 hours prior, or a rapid test on location. Undoubtedly, it is also reasonable for organizers to introduce the alternatives, explain circumstances and thoroughly assess the event.

Is there risk of us creating a viral outbreak if there are a lot of people in a small area, perhaps waiting for rapid testing in a small tent?

If we turn that question around and allow people entry without testing, the risk is even greater. The goal is still to make sure prior to the event that if people dance together, they do it safely.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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