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Coronavirus heats up Estonian sauna industry

·1-min read

TARTU, Estonia (Reuters) - Estonian sauna companies say orders have been flying in since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, crediting a renewed focus on wellbeing for the boost to a tradition they say is as old as Finland's but less well known.

"This was quite surprising, even a bit scary," Siim Nellis, Chief Executive of sauna stove maker Huum, told Reuters, referring to a 221% increase in sales from a year ago in March.

Iglucraft, which makes hand built, igloo-shaped saunas covered with wooden tiles, said it sold around 50 between March and May, as many as in all of 2019.

Chief Executive Priit Kallas said confinement had helped. "Sauna is one of the things that you can put in your backyard in order to take time off and relax during all this mess," he said.

In nearby Belarus, longtime president Alexander Lukashenko suggested in March that saunas, along with vodka and driving tractors, could stave off COVID-19. It was an idea the Estonian sauna industry was keen to disavow.

"Saunas won't cure coronavirus, however they are an antidote to the kind of stresses of our modern lives, and I'm sure the pandemic has heightened some of those stresses," Adam Rang, founder of sauna goods retailer Estoniansaunas.com, said.

"We need to avoid dubious or exaggerated claims."

(Reporting by Janis Laizans, writing by Tarmo Virki; editing by Philippa Fletcher)