Health Board: Tallinn residents not at risk from coronavirus

There is no immediate risk to residents of Tallinn, the Health Board (Terviseamet) said on Thursday, after the first case of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Estonia was confirmed. The individual, a 34-year-old man, tested positive and is being cared for in West Tallinn Central Hospital (Lääne-Tallinna keskhaigla).

The man is an Iranian citizen who lives permanently in Tallinn, and was coming back from visiting relatives with his daughter.

Martin Kadai, head of the emergency department at the Health Board, said there has been just one confirmed case so far in Estonia, meaning the Tallinn public is not currently at risk of contracting coronavirus.

Head of the Health Board Merike Jürilo explained at a press conference on Thursday that Estonia's first infected person did not pick up the infection in Estonia, but in Iran.

The Iranian citizen followed guidelines for suspected cases released by the Health Board, and called the emergency number 112 after learning a relative in Iran had contracted the virus. His test then proved to be positive. He had traveled to Tallinn from Riga on a bus departing at 2 p.m. Wednesday, and called the emergency services after getting off the bus in Tallinn.

Martin Kadai, Merike Jürilo and Agris Koppel at the press conference on Thursday. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

There were 24 people on the same bus who had potential contact with him. The Health Board has contacted these people, it says, and is advising people to self-quarantine at home and not go out to work or elsewhere.

As this is an international case, the Health Board has also contacted their Latvian counterpart. The man had flown from Istanbul, Turkey, to Riga Airport, whence he traveled by bus to Estonia. The Health Board has no information about what happened between the Istanbul - Riga flight and how many people were on board who could be affected.

If members of the public have any doubts or concerns about coming from a risk area, theyshould contact their GP, the Health Board says.

Merike Jürilo said schools are also being given recommendations, via the Ministry of Education, to allow for children from risk areas to stay at home for two weeks in order to self-quarantine. 

The government is discussing the issues, including whether and what additional guidance can be given to schools.

Employers should treat their employees in the same way, as recommended by the Health Board: If an employee has been on sick leave with children, the worker should be allowed to work from home, if the nature of the work permits, to help prevent the spread of the disease. Once the individual has been in contact with an affected person, a family doctor can also issue him or her with a sickness certificate so that he or she can remain at home.

Martin Kadai and Merike Jürilo Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Establishing a state of emergency would be a disproportionate measure, however, the Health Board said. The move would facilitate setting movement restrictions in certain areas, with the provision of essential services, but this is not necessary currently, the board said. Emergency situations are considered only when there is an epidemic that the health system is unable to cope with.

Cooperation between Tallinn Airport and the Port of Tallinn has already been ongoing on for some time. Information boards are posted in three languages, ​​to inform travelers about the risks. Bus and other transport companies had not, however, been previously involved, but have now been sent the same information too. 

The Health Board is advising people to wash their hands carefully, avoid those with symptoms, and avoid areas where the disease is prevalent - including China, northern Italy, Singapore and South Korea - due to the increased chances of contracting the disease.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is thought to have originated in Wuhan, China in late 2019 and has since spread around the world. More than 83,000 people have tested positive for the virus. So far over 2,800 people have died after contracting the virus, mostly older people with underlying health conditions.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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