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Estonia tightens restrictions to stem surge in COVID-19 cases

Christian Fernsby |
Tighter coronavirus curbing measures are coming into force across Estonia from today, 1 March.

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Topics: ESTONIA   

They will remain in place until 28 March. The government made the decision on Friday in response to soaring COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in the country which until recently enjoyed much lower case numbers than its Baltic neighbours.

The tide has turned, and according to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data, Estonia’s 14-day notification rate (8-21 February) clocked at 703.47 new cases per 100 000 population – the second-highest score in Europe after Czechia’s.

"As long as the spread of the virus remains high and the number of vaccinated people is still insufficient, we need to make a joint effort and adhere to the agreed rules. People's sense of responsibility is very important in addition to the restrictions. We all need to reduce our close contacts and protect ourselves by keeping a distance and wearing a mask," Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said, quoted by ERR.

Only the first four grades of general education schools are allowed to perform in-person learning until 28 March. Exempt from this restriction are the schools for persons with disabilities and special support needs.

All other levels of education, including vocational schools, professional higher education institutions and universities switch to remote learning except in isolated cases requiring in-school presence such as practical training, tests, exams, and olympiads. Social distancing, the 2+2 rule and mask-wearing for staff and students aged above 12 years must be observed.

Only individual training is allowed indoors. In individual sports, such as tennis, playing in both singles and doubles is permitted. From 3 March, only groups of up to 10 people can exercise outdoors compared to the current 50. Restrictions do not apply to professional sports and sports involving disabled people.

SPAs, saunas, swimming pools and water parks will be closed but individual training will be allowed. In what is seen as a blow to the culture sector, indoor events at cinemas, theatres and concert venues will be suspended until 28 March.

Shopping malls will remain open, but owners will be required to ensure compliance with the rules.

Catering establishments must close at 6 p.m. from March 3, after which they will be confined to takeaway service only. Their occupancy remains capped at 50 percent. Customers (with the exception of families) must stick to the 2+2 rule and wear masks when moving around the premises.

The restrictions on opening hours and occupancy do not apply on board passenger planes and ferries, at catering points located beyond boarding gates of international ports and airports, and at gas stations provided that customers do not consume their food or drinks at the facility.

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