A nationwide emergency was declared in Estonia on 12th March due to the worldwide Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and the threat of mass infection. The emergency situation stays effective from 12 March until 1 May 2020 unless decided otherwise by the Government.
The Sorainen COVID-19 Task Force is at your disposal, should you need advice on any legal issues you are facing. We are constantly monitoring the situation and will update the information promptly if any new decisions are announced by the Government.
Key information for business
Movement of goods. There is no restriction on the movement of goods, including purchasing, selling, transporting inside the country, importing and exporting, except for sales of alcohol. Night sales of alcohol from 10 pm to 10 am are banned across Estonia, extending from stores to all dining facilities. International cargo (also food and medical supply transport) can enter the country, as well as persons providing vital services, such as fuel providers.
- All public gatherings, events, performances, concerts, conferences, sports competitions and gatherings are banned. All museums, cinemas, nightclubs, sports clubs and other sports facilities (swimming pools, fitness studios etc.), water centres, saunas, day centres, children’s playrooms, casinos and gambling sites are closed (except those related to social welfare, health care and rehabilitation services etc.).
- In public places, all people must follow the 2+2 rule (no more than two people may be together or move around in a public place, and a distance of at least two meters from others must be kept).
- Shopping centres are closed, except for grocery stores; pharmacies; stores where technical aids and medical devices are sold or rented on the basis of technical aid card or medical device card; bank offices; points of sale of telecommunications companies; parcel terminals; catering establishments where food is not consumed on site but only sold as takeaway; and post offices.
- On commercial premises, the number of visitors must be monitored so as to follow the 2+2 rule (which allows for the maximum of two people to move around together while keeping at least two metres of distance from others). Commercial establishments must also guarantee that the 2+2 rule is followed by the people waiting outside.
- Catering establishments, including restaurants, cafes and bars are closed for visitors by 10pm (except for takeaways) (this does not apply for catering establishments in shopping centers where food is allowed to sold only as takeaway).
- Visiting welfare institutions, hospitals and detention facilities is banned. In welfare institutions, leaving is also banned.
- Crossing Schengen internal and external borders is restricted and border controls together with sanitary controls are reintroduced.
- Regular classroom studies are replaced with remote and home study. Research and development at universities and research institutions continues as usual.
- Recreational activities and the activities of youth centres and camps are suspended and hobby schools are closed.
- Package cruises on the Tallinn-Stockholm route are suspended.
- Travelling to and from Hiiumaa, Saaremaa, Muhumaa, Vormsi, Kihnu, Ruhnu and Manija islands is only allowed for people with permanent residence there. The restriction does not apply to transport of goods and provision of vital services.
- In Saaremaa and Muhumaa, additional restrictions apply:
- Cosmetic surgery, beauty and personal services (eg hairdresser, manicure, pedicure, cosmetic, tattoo and solarium services) as well as massage and other rehabilitation services provided as welfare services are banned;
- All stores, markets and libraries are closed. Only grocery stores, pharmacies, points of sale of telecommunications companies, bank offices, parcel terminals, post offices, stores where technical aids and medical devices are sold or rented, as well as eyewear stores and gardening stores remain open;
- Construction and gardening stores may only be open for sales through a service hatch or from the warehouse;
- All catering establishments are closed for food consumption on site, food is only sold as takeaway and through courier service;
- People must stay at home, and are only allowed to leave home to visit grocery stores, pharmacies, doctors, go to work, take children to kindergarten and home, take care of the elderly, disabled and other people in need of assistance, for outdoor walks or sports, to walk a pet or take a pet to the veterinarian. It is allowed to move around in personal gardens and real estate, engage in personal forestry and farm work, and do fishing and gardening. Visiting a post office or a parcel terminal is also allowed.
Remote work and employees at the workplace. Declaring an emergency does not mean that employees in affected businesses may not automatically come to the workplace. Companies have to resolve these matters themselves and inform their employees accordingly. Although private sector companies need not organise remote work, it is advisable to do so. In case of economic difficulties, decreasing pay can be an option for employers who cannot provide employees with agreed full-time work. Read more here (in Estonian). All employees arriving from abroad should stay at home for 14 days. Read more on how to protect your employees here (in English) and what to do if an employee is suspected of having the coronavirus here (in Estonian).
Force majeure. The declaration of emergency does not imply that circumstances of force majeure will automatically apply. The emergency must impact performance of a specific obligation or contract. Thus if the coronavirus outbreak causes non-performance, it could be regarded as force majeure so that non-performance of the contract would be excused and the liability of the obligor lifted (except for monetary obligations) (read more here).
Notaries, courts and banks. Notaries, courts and banks continue working. However, notaries and courts have been encouraged to reorganise their work and use more electronic means. Banks are inviting their clients to use digital channels for using bank services.
Public services and authorities. Most public authorities have closed their client services offices. Public authorities continue providing public services through electronic means.
Government support measures. The Estonian government has drafted a short-term support package for businesses, of which Sorainen lawyers have given an overview here. It includes the following measures:
- Labour market support to cover for wage reduction;
- KredEx support measures (loan guarantee, business credit, investment credit). More information can be found on KredEx website;
- Rural Development Foundation’s support measures (guarantee, business loan, land capital);
- compensating the first three days of sick leave;
- compensating for the direct costs of cancelled culture and spots events (up to EUR 3 million);
- overall exemption from tax delay interest retroactively from 1 March to May;
- reduction of the overall daily tax delay interest rate from 0.06% to 0.03 for an indefinite period;
- compensating the first quarter’s advance payments of social tax for private person entrepreneurs;
- temporary suspension of payments into the II pillar of the pension fund.
The government is also planning to prepare a long-term support package. Additional information can be found on the Government emergency state website.
Cash payments are not banned, but it is advised to use contactless swipe or mobile payments.
Arrival and departure of Estonian citizens to and from Estonia
All Estonian citizens are invited to return to Estonia as soon as possible. Health checks will be in force at border crossing points to detect symptoms of the coronavirus. There are no restrictions on exiting the country, but all citizens are advised to postpone any plans to travel abroad.
For more information visit the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Arrival and departure of foreign nationals to and from Estonia
Foreign nationals who do not hold an Estonian residence permit or right of residence, including so-called grey passport holders, or who have family members in Estonia, are not allowed entry to Estonia. Foreigners are allowed to transit Estonia on the way to their home country if they do not show symptoms of COVID-19. The border control will check travel documents and medical symptoms. There are no restrictions on exiting the country.
For more information visit the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Isolation of persons returning from abroad. Anyone returning from abroad is required to be isolated for 14 days.