The Estonian Traders’ Association has introduced new rules to stop the transmission of coronavirus inside shopping malls this week, but issues around a lack of security staff and non-member centers still persist.
Last week the government said shopping malls could remain open but only as long as owners and retailers took extra precautions to enforce social distancing and compliance with mask wearing. Many have now hired additional security guards to help enforce these rules.
CEO of the Estonian traders’ Association Nele Peil said the association’s goal this week was to get the majority of traders to agree to follow the restrictions. However, she said not everyone could be convinced.
“After all, the Estonian Traders’ Association has no way of using force against companies that are not part of our union. There is only moral condemnation, if they don’t,” she said, but added there would likely be severe consequences if organizations did not follow the rules.
“If malls now refuse to comply with these national requirements on the surface and continue to service people who do not wear masks, it is very likely that shopping centers and shops across Estonia will be closed,” Peil said.
Last week dozens of stores said they would follow the rules implemented by the government.
Marketing manager Mathhias Vutt at the Astri Group, which owns malls in Tallinn, Tartu and Narva, has saidthe majority of customers have been compliant so far but not everyone.
“There are people who understand. There are people who call the police and the police then have to explain to them that this is a private center and there are certain rules and, unfortunately, they are not obliged to let you in without a mask,” Vutt said.
Vallo Koppel, head of the strategy at the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), said the police had dealt with approximately 20 altercations due to mask wearing. Some have come from customers and others from security staff.
Security division director of security services company G4S Villu Oun said many malls had increased their security staff and some had even doubled the number of staff they usually had.
He said it was possible there could be a shortage of security workers, especially if some malls or stores had left hiring additional people until now.
One such company is Kroonikeskus, which owns stores in Voru, Tartu, Johvi and Rakvere. Member of the company’s management board Urmas Sardis said, that despite not being a member of the Estonian traders’ Association, the company was following the rules and would hire staff in the coming weeks.
However, Sardis said he wanted to see stricter legal rules in place to deter rule challengers.
Minister of the Interior Kristjan Jaani (Center) said that security guards had the right to enforce and check people were wearing masks. He said if the rules were not followed then security staff had the right to remove people from their premises.
He also reminded people that wearing a mask in indoor public spaces had been a requirement since November 2020. (ERR/Business World Magazine)