Health minister: Society won't be completely closed with new restrictions

Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center).
Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The mask-wearing requirement, which will come into force on Thursday and makes the practice mandatory in indoor public spaces where coronavirus vaccination certificate checks are not conducted, is part of a package of measures that will help prevent the spread of the coronavirus by shutting society down, Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) said.

"Inevitably, the rules have to be followed at the moment, because in these environments [shopping malls, grocery stores and public transport] there is no COVID verification and therefore a mask requirement is a prerequisite," the minister said.

"I don't think it's too much to ask. We won't send children on distance learning, shopping malls and restaurants are staying open - we try to keep society open, but we can only do it if we all come to terms with these restrictions," Kiik added.

According to the government regulation, the requirement to wear a mask will apply in public indoor areas where a coronavirus vaccination certificate is not checked, such as shopping malls, grocery stores and on public transport.

"In places such as restaurants, theaters, public concerts where the COVID certificate is checked, it is not necessary to wear a mask. In work teams, it's the employer's decision," Kiik went on.

Children under the age of 12 are not required to wear a mask and those under the age of 18 are not required to submit a COVID certificate because they have had significantly less time to vaccinate themselves and no vaccine has been authorized for children under the age of 12.

Asked why people have to wear a mask in large shopping malls, Kiik answered that the government cannot start evaluating each institution separately: "Shopping malls and grocery stores have significantly different ventilation. Ideally, we could have separate rules for each center and store. But we can imagine how much confusion there would be."

The minister said that the requirement to wear a mask in these places is based on sober logic. "If we know that we have significantly more people with a positive test among unvaccinated people and infection rates have already risen for two and a half months in a row, then under these circumstances it is understandable that if we do not check the coronavirus certificate in public transport and shopping malls, the risk of being in contact with an infected person is much higher than at events where the certificate is checked," Kiik said.

Kiik acknowledged that the government does not base itself on a single indicator for setting or removing restrictions, but looks at the numbers of people in hospital, the number of deaths and the general spread of the virus, as well as the global picture: It takes into account vaccinations, hospital numbers, the number of deaths, the rate of infection and, similarly, the trend, which is even more important, where the infection is heading.

Kiik also justified the introduction of new restrictions on the grounds that as the spread of the virus has increased for two months and the number of contacts is expected to increase in the autumn, as schools start and the number of contacts in the indoor environment increases, even more caution is needed.

"For example, in the field of education, restrictions have a huge impact. However, we know that we do not want to suppress this pandemic at the expense of children's education and the future, we want to do it with other measures - masks, coronavirus certificates, event restrictions. Adults can contribute to that."

The new restrictions can be read here and apply from Thursday (August 26).

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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