Health Board orders Tallinn cafe closure over Covid rules non-compliance

A Tallinn cafe has been ordered to close for business, due to non-compliance with coronavirus restrictions. Cafe staff had been instructed to not check customers' coronavirus certification and identity, ERR reports.

The Health Board (Terviseamet) issued a precept to OÜ MEM Cafe's, owner of the cafe of the same name, in the capital's Kalamaja district, due to its repeated failure to comply with checks on coronavirus certifications.

The board says that both it and the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) found the firm was not complying with restrictions established by Government Order No. 305, including checks on certification of coronavirus vaccination or recovery from the virus, and checks of this certification against the customer's ID.

The board says that it bases its decision on the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act (NETS), whose amendments earlier this year grant the right, where necessary, to close institutions and restrict activities, in order to prevent the spread of an infectious disease.

The board says that the closure is justified as the nature of the cafe's main activities present a significant infection risk and risk to public health. The cafe had not made any indication that previous warnings had led it to change its stance on the restrictions, and even told the agency that it had barred its employees from requesting coronavirus certification from customers.

The precept issued permits only cafe staff and members of the company's management board to be present on site at the premises, while all its business activities, i.e. selling refreshments, are banned.

If this is not compiled with, coercive force may subsequently be used.

The cafe has also racked up fines now totaling around €15,000, due to the infringements, the PPA says.

The area surrounding the building hosting the cafe has also been taped off, and only residents are permitted to enter the building, on Vana-Kalamaja.

Chief of the PPA's northern prefecture Joosep Kaasik tweeted that: "The PPA visited MEM cafe a total four times, and found a violations of government restrictions. Fines of €15,000 imposed so far did not affect the company. It has publicly refused to comply with the restrictions. The Health Board closed the café today to protect public health."

MEM board member Elvis Brauer, who ran for the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) in the October local elections, said that the closure was a case of the cafe being made an example of.

"We don't need to set up a health dictatorship in our cafe. I recognize what sport is; I recognize what food is. Our health is good. The health indicators of these 'health officials' and police officers are unlikely to look good, alongside ours," Brauer continued.

A legal aid support fund set up on behalf of MEM has already raised over €50,000, ERR reports.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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