New mask, covid certificate rules enter into force

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A sign saying "Wear a mask!" in Tallinn. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

On Monday, the Estonian government approved an order which will make wearing a mask in public indoor areas mandatory if COVID-19 certificates are not checked. The rules come into effect today (Thursday, August 26.)

In addition, in public areas where COVID-19 safety certificates are required, this applies to all clients or participants, regardless of the number of people, government spokespeople said on Monday. The new rules were first announced last week.

Masks must be worn in all public spaces where anyone can enter and where many people who do not come into contact with each other on a daily basis move around. These are spaces that do not require a COVID-19 certificate.

This applies in particular to trade and service establishments, but also to state and local government agencies. For example, masks must be worn in shops, pharmacies, the service halls of telecommunications companies or banks, post offices, libraries, as well as in the service halls of the Police and Border Guard Board, the Social Insurance Board or the Health Insurance Fund, and elsewhere.

Children up to the age of 12 are still exempted from wearing a mask, as are those for whom covering one's mouth and nose is contraindicated for health or other significant reasons.

The requirement to wear a mask is maintained on public transport, including trains and ferries. The requirement to wear a mask is also maintained at worship and other public religious services, where the number of participants indoors does not exceed 50 people (100 outdoors) or the space is up to 50 percent full. If the number of participants exceeds these limits, infection safety must be checked.

The COVID-19 certificate must be presented from August 26 onwards by all those 18 and older for most organized activities.

This means that the COVID-19 certificate must be presented for sport, training, youth work, hobby activities and education, refresher training and further training; sporting competitions and events; saunas, spas, water parks and swimming pools; at public meetings and events, including theater, cinema, concerts, conferences; museums and exhibitions; entertainment services; eating and drinking on site at catering establishments. All participants must also be checked for infection safety when the activity or event takes place at a place for the provision of service, such as when renting a restaurant or ordering a theater performance.

The COVID-19 certificate does not need to be checked for outdoor events with unlimited territory.

The COVID-19 certificate does not need to be presented in shopping centers or stores. It is also not necessary to prove one's infection safety when buying food for takeaway from a restaurant or cafe. However, as indicated above, a mask must be worn in these places or cases.

In the case of indoor activities, in addition to checking certificates or carrying out testing, it is important to also ensure dispersal and compliance with disinfection requirements.

The organizers are obliged to check the validity of the COVID-19 certificates. In case of reasonable doubt, the person must be asked for an identity document.

The order also allows coronavirus testing in pharmacies, which allows rapid testing in more places and is more easily accessible to people. In order to streamline self-testing in pharmacies, a more detailed order will be developed as Health Board guidelines or the guidelines of the Health Board on self-testing will be supplemented. The result of the rapid test in pharmacies is valid for up to 48 hours and can only be used in places where COVID-19 certificates are domestically required.

The government based the restrictions imposed by the order on the Health Board's assessment, in which the Health Board took into account the prognosis of coronavirus infection, the vaccination rate of the population and the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19. The assessment takes into account, among other things, that the delta strain accounts for more than 90 percent of infections in Estonia and that the infectivity of this strain is 60 percent higher than the coronavirus alpha strain prevalent at the beginning of the pandemic.

Also, due to the delta strain, secondary cases infect third cases more easily than before. Given that 45.57 percent of the population had completed the vaccination course as of August 19, when the government adopted a decision in principle on the restrictions, the Health Board estimates that the effect of vaccination is not sufficient to prevent a possible increase in delta-related morbidity.

As of August 21, the total COVID-19 resource in terms of hospital beds was 204 beds, of which COVID-19 patients occupied 48.5 percent, or 99 beds. The total resource of hospitals' COVID-19 intensive care units is 22 beds, of which COVID-19 patients occupied 59 percent, or 13 beds. The total resource of hospitals' COVID-19 general care facilities is 156 beds, of which COVID-19 patients occupied 53 percent, or 82 beds.

The incidence of the last 14 days has increased in all counties except East-Viru County. The highest increase is in Valga County, Jogeva County and Saaremaa, that is 139.4 percent, 136.8 percent and 90.9 percent, respectively. The regions with the highest morbidity are Voru County (477.2 per 100,000 people), Polva County (446.3 per 100,000 people), and Parnu County (385.2 per 100,000 people).

How can you get a coronavirus certificate?

A coronavirus vaccination certificate is displayed on a mobile phone. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

There are three types of certificates and these show if a person has been vaccinated against coronavirus, recovered from COVID-19 or has recently tested negative.

Certificates can be downloaded from the Patient Portal or a copy can be requested for free from the Social Insurance Board (Sotsiaalkindlustusamet). They are accepted as a PDF shown on a phone or as a printed paper copy.

The vaccination certificate must show the holder has completed the vaccination cycle to be accepted.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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