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Estonia tightens corona restrictions

Estonia tightens corona restrictions

They include mandatory mask wearing in public indoor places, social distancing measures and additional curbs in epidemic hotspots

Estonia has been the country with the softest coronavirus curbs in the Baltics, allowing concerts and theatre performances to go ahead unimpeded and making the wearing of masks just a recommendation. But now the tide has turned.

With daily infection numbers having passed the threshold of 400 for the first time last week, and pressure on the healthcare system mounting, the government had no other option but to impose tougher restrictions. They include mandatory wearing of a mask or face-covering in public indoor spaces, extension of the 2+2 rule to all public closed spaces, downsizing participation in public events and introducing additional curbs in local epidemic hotspots - Harju and Ida-Viru counties.

Restrictions related to masks and social distancing are effective from today, 24 November, while those concerning indoor public meetings, events and entertainment with fixed seating will take effect on Saturday, 28 November. Restrictions will be subject to review every two weeks. Non-compliance can bring a fine of up to EUR 9 600, ERR reports.

Mandatory mask-wearing

All but handicapped persons and children under 12 years of age are obliged to wear a mask or cover one's nose and mouth in public indoor spaces, including on public transport and at service points, in cinemas, theatres and concert halls, and during hobby activities and sports events. The government is drafting a plan to provide free masks for disadvantaged people.

2+2 rule extends to all public indoor spaces

The so-called 2+2 rule, meaning that two people can move together but keep a distance of two metres from other people, must be adhered to everywhere in public indoor spaces, including bank branches, hairdressers and beauty salons. Catering establishments and places of entertainment will continue to be under the 10+2 rule (a group of 10 people staying 2 m apart from others) with families being exempt.

New caps on public events

Up to 400 people can take part in an indoor public event with stationary seating and a maximum of 250 where fixed seats are not available. For outdoor events, attendance is capped at 500.

Organizers of indoor amateur sports events or exercises must ensure up to 50 percent occupancy and the presence of no more than 250 participants.

Additional restrictions in Harju and Ida-Viru counties

A group limit of 10 people, staying dispersed, wearing masks and observing strict disinfection protocols will be set for hobby activities in Harju and Ida-Viru counties. Hobby choirs and theatrical societies have been identified as major infection spreaders there.

From 28 November, a 50 percent occupancy limit will apply to cultural institutions with stationary seating, as well as churches, and to public events, public meetings, and entertainment activities. In indoor fitness classes and other amateur sporting activities, training can be performed in groups of 10 people.

Explaining the necessity of the new restrictions, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas urged Estonians to postpone major holiday events to next year and spend this Christmas in a smaller family circle.

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