Spa center files legal action over COVID-19 restrictions

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Spa centers are among the businesses hit by the coronavirus restrictions. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

A Tallinn spa has lodged a legal action over coronavirus restrictions which, it says, saw it closed for considerably longer than other tourism- and entertainment-related firms, such as restaurants and hotels, themselves the subject of restrictions during the pandemic.

The firm, Mustamäe Elamus SPA, says it aims to both establish the unlawfulness of the government's orders which restricted its activities, and will file a claim for damages.

The company adds that the action was filed with preempting potential future restrictions in mind.

Andres Tiik, the spa's manager, said: "It is no secret that business operators active in the tourism sector are the parties that suffered the most during the coronavirus era, but there are also many different shades of this within the sector."

"One of these is, in our view, the creative imposition of restrictions, to put it mildly, on spa operators, where our company has been one of the biggest sufferers," he continued, in a press release.

Tiik said that whereas hotels and food service companies have been able to operate and generate income to some extent, his firm has seen longer periods of closure and thus a greater loss of business than practically any other nationwide.

The company's turnover fell by €1.2 million between March 13 2020, when the government's emergency situation was declared, and the end of the year, and saw losses of €450,000, the company says.

While the company has seen turnover of €1.6 million this year so far, its losses over that period are nearly the same as 2020's, at €400,000, the spa, whose facilities include an aquapark, says.

The company did not qualify for coronavirus aid, unlike other sectors in the hospitality industry, it says, adding that it is challenging the scientific evidence on which government decisions during the pandemic have been made.

The firm will be represented by former justice chancellor Allar Jõks, a prominent critic of some of the government's coronanvirus responses, including mask-wearing.

Jõks called the government's actions which affected the Mustamäe Spa unlawful, and said he hoped the action would encourage other businesses to stand up for their rights.

According to the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act, the legal basis for the orders, restrictions must be absolutely necessary and proportionate, the firm and its representation said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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