A taskforce formed following the initiative of Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik sent a package of proposals on how to contain the COVID-19 virus to members of the government on Friday. The group recommends boosting regional capacity for diagnosing the virus and installation of thermal cameras at the airport and port in Tallinn for the purpose of identifying potential carriers arriving in Estonia from risk areas.
Kiik admitted the need to prepare for additional confirmed cases of the virus. "The working group deemed it necessary to further boost the preparedness of capable institutions and promote awareness. It was also decided that all public spaces could offer additional options for hand sanitation," the minister said.
The working group proposed boosting regional capacity to diagnose the virus. In addition to the Health Board's laboratory in Tallinn, the capacity to diagnose the virus should be created at the Tartu University Hospital, with the Ida-Viru Central Hospital and Pärnu Hospital considered.
Experts also deem it necessary to install thermal cameras at Tallinn Airport and the Old Harbor of the Port of Tallinn to identify people who could be infected with the virus coming in from high-risk areas and send them to have their health checked if necessary.
Kiik told ERR in an interview that the social ministry has talked to suppliers and the system could become operational as early as next week.
The ministry will also be convening an international passenger transport working group.
The experts support the Health Board's recommendation for people returning from virus hotspots to not come in to work for two weeks following an agreement with their employer for the purpose of monitoring their condition. People who suspect they have caught the virus should call their family doctor or the family medicine hotline 1220.
The working group found no grounds for extending the school break or closing educational institutions. Every school has the right to make its own decisions and changes to study organization. The experts supported the Health Board's suggestion of allowing students returning from risk areas to stay home for two weeks.
The taskforce also supported recommendations by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Health Board not to travel to regions where COVID-19 is widespread (primarily China, Northern Italy, Iran, Singapore, Japan, South Korea) and revise travel plans in general.
Banning cultural and sports events was not deemed expedient in the current situation. Event organizers are urged to pay extra attention to maintaining hygiene, including additional possibilities for hand sanitation.
The taskforce has proposed covering costs arising from the need to take additional measures. Initial costs associated with containing COVID-19 concern thermal cameras, personal protection devices and disinfectants, as well as additional human resources. The social ministry's working group will work with the Ministry of Finance to calculate additional needs and file applications.
The meeting was attended by experts from the Ministry of Social Affairs, Health Board, Health Insurance Fund, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Rescue Board, Police and Border Guard Board, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education and Research, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Finance.
The cabinet will convene to discuss the measures on Monday at 11 a.m.
Editor: Marcus Turovski