Estonia: schools closed, churches open

The Estonian government tightened its coronavirus measures on Wednesday, closing all schools and other public institutions. In the northeast of the country - which has one of the highest infection rates in Europe - all public activities are banned for the next three weeks, with one exception: churches will remain open throughout the country. The state press is baffled and dismayed.

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Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Without any sense of the danger

The government isn't listening to experts and is behaving like a headless chicken, Eesti Päevaleht complains:

“Even if the Protestant church has been behaving like a political party for several years, the Church and the state are still separate in our country and there is no state church. Recently the coalition parties clearly showed how important faith and religion have become in Estonian politics. But the government should have enough presence of mind to understand how dangerous it is to close everything except the churches before Christmas, because this amounts to providing guaranteed breeding grounds for the disease. Who is responsible for this? When did religion become the most important thing in Estonia - more important even than human life?”

Eesti Rahvusringhääling (EE) /

The Church has too much influence

Commentator Meelis Oidsalu criticises the special role of the Protestant Church on the website of Estonian radio broadcaster ERR:

“The freedom not to believe is part of the freedom of belief. The idea of a state church does not respect this freedom. The special status of the Protestant Church is visible at state ceremonies and in chaplains who occupy government posts. It's even surprising that anyone finds it strange that the country's largest real estate owner - the Lutheran Church - has been so successful in obtaining additional government funding during the epidemic. ... I'm not saying that the Church should not play an active role in Estonian social life. On the contrary, religion enables social cohesion - and it has also helped me personally. But the existence of a de facto state church puts pressure on the freedom of belief.”