Estonia introduces tough new restrictions

The Estonian government on Tuesday introduced strict new rules due to the coronavirus crisis – the shopping centres will close from Friday and meetings of more than two people in public places are prohibited.

From 25 March, at least a two-metre (6.5 ft) distance must be kept by people in public places, such as outdoor playgrounds, sports grounds, beaches, promenades, health and hiking trails and indoors, except in homes and when this cannot be ensured. Up to two people are allowed to be together in public space. The restriction does not apply to families living and moving around together, and to people conducting public duties, the government said.

The shopping centres will be closed from 27 March, except for grocery stores, pharmacies, telecommunication outlets, bank branches, parcel terminals and shops that sell or rent medical devices (and have a legal basis to do so). Eateries at shopping centres are only allowed to sell take-away food.

In shops that remain open, people must adhere to the principle that they may move alone or in pairs and keep at least two-metre distance from other people. Disinfectants must be provided at the entrances and exits of all shops which remain open – and stores that are open must enforce this rule.

Restaurants and bars will be closed at 10 pm in the evening, and only take-away and home delivery will be allowed after that time. The two-metre, two-people rule also applies to bars and restaurants. Other entertainment venues, such as bowling and billiard halls, shisha bars and adult clubs, will be closed from 27 March.

Restrictions to be re-evaluated in two weeks’ time

“I ask for an even greater effort by all of us to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” the Estonian prime minister, Jüri Ratas, said in a press conference announcing the new measures. “We need to behave as ‘our’ society, not as ‘my’ society. It is in the interest of all Estonian people. The faster the coronavirus stops spreading, the faster we will return to our normal pace of life.”

The government said it will re-evaluate the restrictions in two weeks’ time.

As of 24 March, there are 369 confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Estonia, according to the country’s Health Board; 28 people have been hospitalised, seven are in intensive care and five are in a critical condition. Eight coronavirus patients have been released from the hospitals. The Estonian government declared an emergency situation on 12 March and closed its borders on 17 March.

For the latest developments in Estonia, follow our special blog on coronavirus.

Cover: Tallinn city centre on 19 March. Photo by Anneli Ohvril.

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