Estonia declares an emergency situation. Now what?

Triniti

On 12 March 2020, the Government of the Republic declared an emergency situation due to the pandemic spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the detection of domestic infections, and the need to apply the order of coordination and special measures defined in Chapter 4 of the Emergency Act. The emergency situation applies to the entire territory of Estonia until 01 May 2020 unless the government decides otherwise. The government appointed prime minister Jüri Ratas as the person in charge of emergency situation.

Measures that have been implemented

At the declaration of the emergency situation, the government has taken the following measures:

  • public gatherings
    • all public gatherings are prohibited
  • education
    • all public schools and universities shall suspend regular classroom studies and switch over to remote and home studying from 16 March until further notice
    • research and development activities in universities and research institutions shall continue
    • decisions concerning kindergartens and childcare establishments shall be made by the local authorities
    • the necessity of these measures will be assessed every two weeks
  • border crossing
    • sanitary inspections will be implemented at border crossing points, airports and ports
    • people entering Estonia by land, air and sea shall be required to fill in forms disclosing the origin of their stay
    • the sale of cruise trips on Tallinn-Stockholm-Tallinn line shall be suspended
  • risk areas
    • each morning, the Ministries of Social Affairs and Foreign Affairs will review and publish the list of high and medium risk areas
    • Estonian residents arriving from the risk areas must remain in quarantine for two weeks
  • other arrangements
    • museums and cinemas shall be closed to visitors; libraries remain open to a limited extent
    • performances, concerts, conferences and sports competitions are prohibited
    • social welfare institutions, hospitals, and detention facilities shall be subject to visiting ban
Coordination of the resolution of emergency

Under the Emergency Act, the Government of the Republic shall appoint one of the ministers to act as the person in charge of emergency situation (“PICOES”), who will report directly to the Government. In this case, the prime minister Jüri Ratas has been appointed as the PICOES.

The PICOES will appoint one or several persons in charge of emergency situation work (“PICOESW”), who shall direct the performance of emergency situation work in the emergency situation zone, coordinate ensuring of public order and road safety, and fulfil other duties given by the person in charge of emergency situation.

The PICOES has the right to issue orders to PICOESW and other authorities and persons fulfilling public administration duties.

Emergency situation work means work for resolving an emergency that has led to the declaration of an emergency situation, including work for the provision of assistance to victims and persons in need of assistance as well as work for carrying out mass evacuation.

Measures that can be implemented

Subject to certain limitations and conditions, the Government, the PICOES, the PICOESW and other authorities appointed by the PICOES may implement the following measures during the emergency situation:

  • obligation to work;
  • expropriation of movable property;
  • duty to grant use of item;
  • performance of emergency situation work on premises;
  • prohibition on stay and other restrictions on freedom of movement;
  • restrictions on holding public meetings and public events;
  • precept and application of administrative coercive measures.

The Government of the Republic may also involve the Defence Forces and Defence League in resolution of emergency that has led to declaration of emergency situation. The armed forces may be brought in to help with the performance of emergency situation work, or – with the approval of the President of the Republic – to regulate the traffic during an emergency situation and ensure the safety in an emergency situation zone.

Extent of the measures

The following tables offer a summarised overview of who can implement each measure, who are the obligated subjects, what is the nature of the obligation, and what are the conditions under which a measure could be implemented.

An overarching principle is that these special measures can only be implemented in case they are necessary for resolving the emergency that has led to the declaration of the emergency situation.

Obligation to work
By:
PICOES, PICOESW, other officials appointed by PICOES
To:
natural persons of at least 18 years of age who are capable of performing the work by their knowledge, skills, and state of health; exceptions include pregnant women, military servicemen and persons performing national defence work obligations
What:
emergency situation work, i.e. work for resolving an emergency that has led to the declaration of an emergency situation, including work for the provision of assistance to victims and persons in need of assistance as well as work for carrying out mass evacuation
If:
  • competent authorities or persons involved by them on a voluntary basis are unable to perform the work or are unable to perform it in a timely manner; and
  • maximum duration of the obligation is 48 hours; and
  • the obligated person must be given at least 6 hours of rest during each 24 hours of work, of which 4 hours must be uninterrupted
Expropriation of movable property and duty to grant use of item
By:
PICOES, PICOESW
To:
natural and legal persons
What:
  • expropriation of fuel, food, medicinal products or other consumable movable property (except money and such property against which a claim for payment cannot be made in enforcement proceedings) into state ownership; or
  • imposition of the duty to grant use of immovable property and buildings, as well as vehicles, machinery, pieces of equipment or other non-consumable movable property
If:
  • the item or use thereof is strictly necessary for performing emergency situation work and there are no other alternatives for its timely acquisition or use or such alternatives would be unreasonably burdensome; and
  • upon the expropriation of an item or the duty to grant use of an item is prepared in two copies, one of which is given to the owner or possessor of the item; and
  • the state pays a person fair compensation for the expropriation of their item or duty to grant use of their item during an emergency situation
Performance of emergency situation work on premises
By:
PICOES, PICOESW
To:
natural and legal persons
What:
performance of emergency situation work in an emergency situation zone on immovable property or in a building or room without the consent of the possessor thereof, including the performance of demolition work, cutting down trees and blocking water bodies
If:
this is necessary for resolving an emergency that has led to the declaration of an emergency situation
Prohibition on stay and other restrictions on freedom of movement
By:
Government, PICOES, PICOESW*, other officials appointed by PICOES*
To:
natural persons
What:
  • requiring a person to leave the emergency situation zone or part thereof and prohibiting the person from staying in the emergency situation zone or part thereof (maintaining, if possible, the person’s access to their dwelling or place of work); or
  • other restrictions on the freedom of movement (by Government or PICOES only)
If:
this is necessary for resolving an emergency that has led to the declaration of an emergency situation
Restrictions on holding public meetings and public events
By:
Government, PICOES
To:
natural and legal persons
What:
Restriction or prohibition of holding public meetings and public events in an emergency situation zone
If:
it is strictly necessary for resolving an emergency that has led to the declaration of an emergency situation
Precept and application of administrative coercive measures
By:
PICOES, PICOESW*
To:
providers of vital services, communications undertakings
What:
  • imposing by a precept on a provider of a vital service the obligation to provide the vital service in the manner and to the extent set out in the precept; or
  • imposing the obligation to restrict the provision of communications services to the end user or the end user’s access to a communications network (by PICOES only)
If:
this is necessary for resolving an emergency that has led to the declaration of an emergency situation
Or else:
If the provider of a vital service or the communications undertaking does not comply with the precept, the compliance with the precept may be imposed by the measures and pursuant to the procedure provided for in the Substitutive Enforcement and Penalty Payment Act. The upper limit of penalty payment for each imposition thereof is 9600 euros.

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