Estonian govt declares emergency situation until May 1

  • 2020-03-13
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Due to the pandemic spread of the coronavirus and likely expansion of the spread of the virus within Estonia, the government on Thursday night declared an emergency situation in the country.

The emergency situation will continue until May 1, 2020, unless the government decides otherwise. 

The change in the organization of life concerns, among other hings, schools, cultural life and ship traffic. No public events can take place.

"The government's absolute priority is to protect the health of the people of Estonia in the situation that has evolved," Prime Minister Juri Ratas said. "The emergency situation is necessary to stand against the spread of the coronavirus in Estonia in the most efficient manner. The state must be able to give citizens clear and, if necessary, mandatory instructions that would help to put a limit to the spread of the virus," he said.

The prime minister added that actions of the state alone are no longer sufficient to overcome the crisis.

"We have reached a situation where each person must make a contribution to the protection of public health. I understand the inconvenience that the declaration of an emergency situation will cause for all of us, but what is at stake is not the protection of just people's health, but also lives," Ratas said.

Ratas also said that since the spread of the virus is a complex phenomenon that is having an impact on multiple fields of life in Estonia, tackling it requires extraordinary measures.

"Alongside public health, it's important in the first place to ensure effective and prompt solving of the problems of the economy related to the spread of the virus," the premier said.

"It is no longer possible to resolve the emergency caused by the spread of the virus without applying the command organization set forth in the Emergency Act," he said.

The proposal to declare an emergency situation was made by the government committee led by the prime minister. The government committee will gather for its next meeting on Friday, March  13. 

At 9 a.m. on Friday, a press conference will take place at Stenbock House in which Prime Minister Juri Ratas, Interior Minister Mart Helme, Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu and Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik will take part.

The emergency situation concerns the following:

Public meetings

All public meetings are prohibited. 

Study activities in education institutions

Starting on Monday, March 16, usual study activities in education institutions must be suspended and activities switched to distance and home learning format.

In all schools, vocational schools and universities an information event must be prepared on Friday, March 13 where instructions and materials are distributed for the further organization of learning.

In universities and research institutions research and development activity will continue. 

Study activity in schools for special needs students will be addressed separately.

The work arrangement of kindergartens and childcare will be decided about by the municipality or other keeper or the kindergarten. 

Provision of hobby education must be suspended starting Monday, March 16. 

Such arrangement of education will continue until a change in the situation. The necessity of the measures will be assessed every two weeks.

The border and international passenger ship traffic

At border crossing points health checks will be introduced to detect coronavirus illness symptoms in people. 

Also, people entering the country must fill in questionnaires to enable to determine the places they have visited.

At airports and sea ports health checks will be introduced and the requirement to fill in questionnaires introduced just like at border crossing points on the land border.

The sale of cruise trips on the Tallinn-Stockholm-Tallinn route must be stopped.

Measures to contain the spread of the virus will be prepared and implemented in collaboration with the shipper.

At-risk areas

The Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will each morning review the list of high- and medium-risk areas in the world.

As of March 12, the countries listed as such are: China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, specified regions of France, states of Germany, Tyrol in Austria, Japan, Singapore and, in Spain -- Madrid, Catalonia and the Basque Country. Estonian residents and foreign nationals arriving from these areas must spend two weeks in quarantine.  

Other walks of life

Libraries will remain open to a limited extent.

Museums and cinemas will be closed until May 1. Performances, concerts and conferences will be banned, just like sorts competitions.

A prohibition on visiting will apply at care institutions, hospitals and penitentiary institutions.