While hospitals and family doctors have been given instructions on how to respond to patients with suspected cases of 2019-nCoV novel coronavirus, pharmacies have not, says a spokesperson for the sector.
Speaking on ETV discussion show "Suud puhtaks" Tuesday night, Karin Alamaa-Aas of the Estonian Chamber of Pharmacists (EPK) said that: "Whereas everyone [else] has been instructed - hospitals and family doctors - pharmacies have not been informed at all."
Alamaa-Aas also conceded that there had been no signs of a coronavirus panic at pharmacies. No case of the virus has been found in Estonia to date.
"We operate on our own wisdom. We read the Health Board's (Terviseamet) website, the same information that is meant for patients, so we can advise patients," she added.
Nonetheless, this situation was not satisfactory, she said.
"In fact, the pharmacy is probably one of the first contacts to come in contact with this person. I think the pharmacies should also be instructed by the health authority on how to handle such a suspicion," she added.
Other speakers appearing on the discussion show represented family doctors and hospitals, the health board, and Tallinn Airport.
Martin Kadai, Head of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Health Board, said Estonia needs to be ready now to quickly identify any case, isolate the patient, take samples and find out who the patient has been in contact with to curtail any spread.
On a scale of one to ten, Kadai put Estonia's readiness at seven or eight.
Kadai also asserted that a person who thinks they themselves might have the virus, should follow the same procedure as with any other illness.
"If a person has non-critical health problems, emergency care is not needed. You should start with a family doctor," he said.
Kadai also noted that Estonia has the legal mechanism to prevent people from being admitted in the event of a coronavirus outbreak, adding this is done only in emergency situations, since it would be a restriction of fundamental rights.
Doctors and hospitals
Rapla family doctor Argo Lätt, head doctor at Järvamaa Hospital (Järvamaa Haigla) Andres Müürsepp, and head of East Tallinn Central Hospital (ITK) Emergency Medical Center Märt Põlluveer, all said that they were also following the Health Board's guidelines in the first instance.
"It can't be said that we are more or less prepared in any way. Last year and before that there was a very severe flu outbreak in Estonia, but no broadcast was made about that," Põlluveer said.
Peep Talving, a board member and chief physician at North Estonia Regional Hospital (PERH), said his hospital had made some preparations, including setting up infection control group, and screens in emergency urging those with Coronavirus symptoms to wear a mask. Talving added that wearing a mask would also be standard practice in the case of common flu, so as not to infect others. PERH says it has also replenished its stock of masks.
Einari Bambus, board member at Tallinn Airport, said it is not doing anything more than usual in the wake of the coronavirus story, adding that the airport has received scenarios on which to operate.
"As of now, we have not organized, nor will we be raising hue and cry over any passenger. We do not have any direct flights to China at this time either," he said, qualifying this by saying it was not impossible for an infected person to reach Estonia via a hub airport.
In the latter case, whether the information came from the sufferer themselves, a fellow passenger or flight crew, the airport, which also stocks the required precautionary items, would alert the Health Board and the emergency services if needed, he said.
Editor: Andrew Whyte