1.2 Physical distancing
The government began to announce transition measures for physical distancing starting from 19 May, and further clarified the eased restrictions on 21 May.
In public places and indoor premises, the so-called 2+2 rule remains in force, which means that up to two people may be together, keeping a distance of 2-metres from other people. The rule does not apply to families or people living together, but applies for all activities both outdoors and indoors aside from at home.
Sales and service premises
In sales and service premises, catering establishments and public shopping spaces, the owner of the establishment must ensure compliance with the 2+2 rule. When entering and exiting the sales and service premises, both employees and customers must be provided with the possibility of using disinfectants.
Until July 1, catering establishments premises cannot be open after 22:00, except for take-away purchases. After July 1, catering establishments can be open without restrictions. On 21 May, this was updated so that from 1 June, restaurants and bars may be open for visitors after 22:00 as long as the 2+2 rule is observed and disinfectants are made available. From the same date, catering establishments may also sell alcohol after 10 p.m.
Certain entertainment facilities remain closed
After the end of the emergency situation, nightclubs, casinos and slot machine arcades, hookah bars, and adult clubs will remain closed. On 21 May, this was updated so that from 1 June, casinos and arcades can reopen, but establishments must comply with the 50 per cent capacity requirement and no more than 50 visitors are allowed on the premises. In addition, disinfectants must be available for staff and visitors.
Leisure and entertainment services
As of June 1, certain entertainment establishments may open, such as bowling alleys, billiard halls, and playrooms for children. The service provider must ensure that the establishment follows the 50 percent capacity requirements on the premises, provides disinfectants, and observes rules regarding the provision of disinfection in accordance with the instructions of the Health Board. The rules for recreational sports apply to bowling and billiards.
Saunas, spas, swimming pools, water parks
Saunas, spas, swimming pools, and water parks can open as of June 1. Compliance with the 2+2 rule, the requirement for dispersion of people, the requirement for 50 percent capacity, and the requirement for disinfection must be guaranteed according to the instructions of the Health Board. The rules on sports are applicable for swimming exercises.
Public religious services and other religious rites are allowed if the 2+2 rule is complied with and the provision of disinfectants is guaranteed.
Public meetings may be held only if the 2+2 rule is followed.
Public meetings may be held indoors if the 50 percent capacity rule is observed. As of May 18, up to 10 persons may participate, as of June 1, 50 persons, and as of July 1, 500 persons.
Public meetings may be held outdoors if the organiser ensures no more than 100 persons attend as of May 18, and no more than 1000 persons from July 1. The 2+2 rule must be observed.
Originally, all public events were prohibited until 30 June. On 21 May, this was updated so that public events such as film screenings, theatre performances, fairs, festivals, conferences, and concerts, are allowed from 1 June both indoors and outdoors. However, the organiser must ensure compliance with the 2+2 rule and the 50 per cent capacity requirement, and no more than 50 persons may take part in the event. Public events held outdoors may not be attended by more than 100 persons.
As an exception, public events are allowed where visitors can stay in their cars, such as drive-in cinemas and concerts. Originally this was applied to open air public events but the government lifted this restriction on 21 May so that suitable indoor spaces (e.g., large halls) could be used for drive-in cinemas and concerts. The organiser of the event must ensure that the 2+2 rule is observed, the participants must not leave the car without an unavoidable reason and the distance between parked cars must remain sufficient. If necessary, the organiser of the event must ensure the provision of disinfectants on the spot.
After July 1, no more than 500 people can participate in any indoor event, even if the space would allow a 50 percent capacity higher than 500 people. The number of participants in the outdoor event may be up to 1000 persons.
Education in lower secondary schools, upper secondary schools, vocational education institutions and higher education institutions (except in research and development institutions of universities and research institutions), as well as in continuous education institutions, informal education and hobby activities, and the activities of open youth centres must follow the 2+2 rule; students may work in groups of no more than 10 students (except for exams); during exams, the students must be dispersed in the exam room; the movement of groups of students must be dispersed, and all communal items must be disinfected after use.
As of June 1, informal education and hobby activities must be organised in such a way that the 2+2 requirement is observed, no more than 50 percent of the indoor capacity may be used, and the number of participants outdoors cannot exceed 100 people. An informal education or hobby activity related to sports is described separately below.
As of June 12, it is possible to organise youth camps and student camps if the 2+2 rule is observed, with no more than 300 participants and one group can have up to 20 people. The organiser must ensure that disinfectants are available.
In driving schools, and other premises, training must take into account that only one instructor and one student may be in the car, and the disinfectants are provided in the vehicle. The organiser of the training must clean all of the surfaces touched by students after each lesson.
It is allowed to engage in sports, to train and hold sports and exercise events if the 2+2 rule is observed and the number of participants does not exceed 10 persons, and the organiser has ensured the availability of disinfectants. For indoor events, the space must not exceed 50 percent capacity. Until June 1, the number of participants may not exceed 100 persons and the organiser must ensure that disinfectants are available. This restriction does not apply to sports teams if the requirements of the international competition regulation are followed, for trainings of Estonian national teams, and championship league trainings.
Sports competitions without spectators can be held outdoors with no more than 100 participants. The provision of disinfectants must be guaranteed.
From 1 July, sports competitions can be held with spectators, provided that the 2+2 rule is observed, the organisers comply with the 50 percent capacity requirement, and no more than 500 persons take part of the event. For outdoor sports competitions, up to 1,000 participants are allowed if the rules are followed. The total number of participants includes both competitors and spectators.
Museums and exhibition institutions
When visiting museums and exhibition institutions, the 2+2 rule must be observed. For group tours, there may be a maximum of ten visitors in the group until 1 June, with ensured availability of disinfectants. The surfaces frequently touched by visitors must be cleaned frequently. If possible, the organiser should offer digital information materials instead of physical materials. Creative workshops will not be organised using commonly used tools or, if organised, they will be disinfected after each user.
The restriction on the sale of alcohol will be lifted on 1 June
From 1 June, the retail sale of alcohol will be allowed as before the emergency situation.
From 19 June, the government has decided to replace the 2+2 rule with a requirement to disperse people. This means that people must maintain a safe distance between one another, but the state no longer requires compliance with the 2+2 rule.
Dispersion requirements will replace the 2+2 rule in public spaces, such as stores, service points and public spaces at shopping centres as well as at gambling locations. Dispersion must also be ensured at public events, public meetings and religious services.
The requirement will apply to public saunas, spas, swimming pools, water parks, bowling alleys, pool halls and children's playrooms, primary schools, high schools, vocational schools and institutes of higher education, training centres, hobby schools and recreational activities and public youth centre activities. It will also be in place at children's and student camps, sports and museum and exhibition visits.
The government also decided to lift the restrictions on driving schools where only the instructor and one student could be in the car at one time.
Fines will also no longer be imposed for not following the rule.
However, the 2+2 rule may still be applied at select locations. As of 1 July, nightclubs, hookah bars and adult entertainment clubs may also reopen if operators ensure the appropriate dispersion of customers, a 50 percent capacity, a maximum of 100 participants and disinfection requirements.
Since August 18, the government abolished restrictions applied to educational establishments. The restrictions have been replaced by recommendations for preventing the spread of the coronavirus in the new school year that were issued by the Ministry of Education and Research and the Health Board.
As a result of the decision, the up to 50 per cent maximum capacity requirement indoors is no longer applicable in primary schools, upper secondary schools, vocational educational institutions and higher education institutions. The restriction also no longer applies in continuing education institutions, hobby schools, open youth centers, youth camps and student work camps. Restrictions are also no longer applicable to conducting recreational activities and hobby education, and to organising driver training for a power-driven vehicle, motor vehicle, or vehicle carrying a hazardous load.
The restrictions established with the regulation of the government have been replaced by guidelines for preventing the spread of the coronavirus, provided in cooperation with the Health Board.
Since August 1, the government lifted the restriction on the number of visitors (previously set at a limit of 100 people) to casinos, slot machine halls, nightclubs, hookah bars, adult clubs, outdoor recreational activities and hobby education, outdoor sports sessions and training, and sports events. However, service providers must continue to ensure the dispersion of people and meet the 50% occupancy and disinfection requirement.
Since August 20, the 50% occupancy limit does not apply to theatre performances, concerts and film screenings, conferences, and public meetings and events, provided that stationary seating is provided for the whole audience. If temporary seats our used, the exception to the 50% limit does not apply.
From the 25th of September, alcohol sales in restaurants, bars, nightclubs etc. are restricted all over the country, with prohibited sales from midnight until 10 a.m.
Estonia has implemented an overall ban on public events and gatherings. This includes a suspension of all activities related to cultural events and entertainment (museums, cinemas, theatres, concerts, shows, conferences, sports events, bowling and billiard halls, hookah cafés, casinos, adult clubs etc). Sports halls, sports clubs, gyms, spas, swimming pools, water centres, day centres, and children's play rooms must remain closed. Hotels and other accommodation providers must close also their gyms, swimming pools, saunas and spas. The restriction does not apply to the provision of social and health care services such as food aid, social welfare services, medical and rehabilitation services.
All schools (from primary level up to universities) have been closed since 16 March (until 1 May), with regular studies substituted by e-learning. Extracurricular activities are not allowed. Research and development activities will continue at universities and research institutions.
Operation and organization of kindergartens and daycare centres is decided by local governments or other kindergarten operators. The local governments must guarantee childcare if parents need to go to work.
Nursing homes, hospitals and detention facilities no longer allow visitors. An accompanying person is not allowed to participate in child birth.
Since 25 March, new distance requirements only allow up to two people to be together in public spaces. This restriction does not apply to families living and moving around together or to people performing public duties. A distance of at least 2 metres between people should be kept in public places (outdoor playgrounds, sports grounds, beaches, promenades, health and hiking trails, shops and other outdoor public places). These requirements are referred to as the “2+2” rule in Estonia.
Since 27 March, shopping centres are closed, with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, telecommunication outlets, bank offices, parcel stations, stores selling or renting disability aids and medical devices, and eateries selling food as take-away. Other shops can remain open if they are able to ensure a 2 metres distance between people. Disinfectants must be provided at the entrances and exits of all shops that remain open. Retail sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited from 10:00 pm to 10:00 am.
Restaurants and bars should be closed at 10:00 pm in the evening, and can only offer take-away and home delivery after that time.
People are strongly advised to stay home.
Sources: https://www.terviseamet.ee/et/koroonaviirus/, https://www.kriis.ee/et
Update 5 April:
On 3 April, Estonia introduced additional restrictions in nursing homes, with the aim of protecting nursing home residents. People receiving 24-hour nursing or care services are not allowed to leave the area of the facility until the end of the emergency situation. Only a person without symptoms may go home from a nursing home, with the understanding that they cannot return to the nursing home until the end of the emergency situation. The nursing home must ensure that a person infected with COVID-19, and other persons who have been in close contact with the infected person, will be isolated. Any contact with other persons aside from care providers and medical personnel is prohibited. COVID-19 has been detected in 19 nursing homes as of 3 April.
Starting from 4 April, additional rules were introduced for all open stores and service providers. According to the 2 + 2 rule, stores should preferably be visited alone or in pairs, while keeping a distance of at least 2 meters from other customers. As an important change, shopkeepers have to calculate how many customers can be in their store at one time according to the area of the room in order to comply with the 2 + 2 rule. Shops, post offices, pharmacies and service providers must also ensure that people waiting behind the door follow the 2 + 2 rule and that there are no queues where people stand together more closely.
In order to prevent the further spread of the virus, stores or service providers must supply disinfectants. Otherwise, customers are not allowed to enter or stay in the store. The regulation also changes the requirement for where to place the disinfectant from the entrance of the shop to the location where the disinfectant is most needed. Customers must be clearly informed where the disinfectant is located, otherwise the customer must not enter the shop.
In order to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, prison guards in Estonia switched to a 24/5 schedule on 4 April, where they will work five days in a row and will spend their time off after work staying on site at the prison. Experts have recommended such work arrangements in both prisons and nursing homes to prevent at risk populations from becoming infected. To accommodate the new working arrangement, prisons will be divided into two areas depending on whether they require contact with prisoners. Prison officials will work in prisoners' living quarters for five consecutive days, while work will be continued as usual in administrative buildings, external surveillance as well as open prisons. Due to their duties, only medical staff will be permitted to move around in prison facilities.
There are currently around 300 people with HIV and 700 people with hepatitis C serving time in Estonian prisons, in addition to many others with pre-existing conditions where contracting the coronavirus could prove fatal. As prisoners in critical condition would have to be treated in the intensive care units of civilian hospitals, which may need to admit rapidly increasing numbers of civilian patients in the near future, the ministry has highlighted the importance of preventing prison inmates from becoming infected so as not to further burden the health system.
In order to prevent the spread of the virus, inmates are not permitted to have visitors during the emergency situation. Group work and walks are also cancelled, and prisoners are to remain in their living quarters.