Estonian government declares state of emergency until 1 May with all public events banned

13. March

In connection with the global spread of the coronavirus pandemic and the likely spread of the illness within Estonia, the government has declared a state of emergency. This situation will remain in effect until 1 May 2020 unless the government decides otherwise.

The decision affects schools, cultural life, ferry travel and more. One consequence is that public events have been banned.

“In the situation which has developed, the government’s top priority is to protect the health of the people of Estonia,” said Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. “Declaring the state of emergency is necessary in order for us to take a more effective stance against the spread of coronavirus in Estonia. The state must be able to give its citizens clear – and if necessary mandatory – instructions to follow that will contribute to limiting the spread of the virus.”

Prime Minister Ratas added that the state’s actions alone are no longer enough to overcome the crisis.

“We find ourselves in a situation where each and every person must do their part to protect the health of the nation,” he remarked. “I appreciate the inconvenience to everyone that declaring a state of emergency brings with it, but it is not just people’s health which is at stake: people’s lives are at risk.”

Prime Minister Ratas also said that since the spread of the virus is a complex phenomenon impacting on many areas of life in Estonia, attempts to deal with it require extraordinary measures.

“First and foremost, alongside people’s health, it is important for us to ensure that economic problems linked to the spread of the virus are addressed promptly and effectively,” he explained.

“The emergency caused by the spread of the virus is no longer a situation we can resolve without implementing the management plan set out in the Emergency Act.”

The proposal to declare the state of emergency was made by the government committee, led by the prime minister. The committee will convene for its next session on Friday 13 March.

A press conference will be given by Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, Minister of the Interior Mart Helme, Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu and Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik at Stenbock House at 9:00 this Friday.

The state of emergency affects the following areas:

Public gatherings

All public gatherings are banned.

Studies in educational institutions

Starting from Monday 16 March, regular studies will be halted and students will be required to study at home and via distance learning.

All elementary, basic, upper secondary and vocational schools and all colleges and universities shall hold an information event on 13 March in order to share instructions and materials for the further organisation of studies.

Research and development activities in universities and research establishments shall continue.

Teaching work in educational institutions for students with special needs shall be addressed separately.

Local authorities or the heads of individual service providers shall decide whether to open kindergartens and child care centres and how the work there should be organised.

All recreational education activities shall cease starting from Monday 16 March.

These arrangements shall remain in place until the situation changes. The necessity of the measures shall be reviewed every two weeks.

National borders and international ferry travel

Sanitary checks are to be implemented at border crossings in order to identify symptoms of coronavirus.

People entering the country will also have to fill in a form so that their origins can be determined.

Sanitary checks will be implemented at ports and airports, where the requirement to complete the form will be introduced as at mainland border crossings.

Sales of tickets for ferry travel between Tallinn and Stockholm are to be suspended.

In cooperation with ferry operators, measures are being developed and implemented to limit the spread of the virus.

Risk areas

The Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are reviewing the medium- and high-risk areas around the world each morning.

As at 12 March these countries were China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, certain departments in France, certain states in Germany, the Tirol region of Austria, Japan, Singapore and parts of Spain (Madrid, Catalonia and the Basque Country). Estonian residents and foreign citizens coming from these places must self-isolate for two weeks.

Miscellaneous

Libraries will remain open to a limited extent.

All museums and cinemas will be closed until 1 May. All performances, concerts and conferences have been banned.

All sports competitions have been banned until 1 May.

Visits to social welfare institutions, hospitals and custodial institutions are to be banned.

Baltic News Service, 12 March 2020