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Coronavirus to cost state budget at least €3 million

Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center).
Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center). Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

According to Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center), an additional item on the agenda of Monday's Cabinet meeting will be the need for additional funds to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Calculations by the Health Board and the Ministry of Social Affairs indicate that expenses in the field will total some €3 million, exclusive of labor costs.

Speaking on Vikerraadio morning broadcast "Vikerhommik" on Monday, Kiik said that in terms of spread of the virus, the situation in Estonia is currently stable. The one case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) confirmed last week has thus far remained the only confirmed case.

As of Monday, some 60 additional people have been tested for the virus who had either themselves recently been in at-risk regions or whose loved ones had and who had exhibited symptoms of the disease, however all of these tests have turned up negative.

Based on Ministry of Foreign Affairs and travel agency data, the Ministry of Social Affairs has also attempted to map out how many Estonian residents are currently or have recently been located in at-risk regions, and according to Kiik, this figure may reach into the thousands.

The social affairs minister is requesting people remember when asked by the Health Board to remain home for two weeks after returning from an at-risk region that their health and that of those around them are the most important thing. He noted that one doesn't necessarily have to be sick in order to receive a sick leave certificate from their doctor, but doctors must make an informed decision in each case regarding whether or not to issue one.

The Estonian government is convening on Monday to discuss proposals worked out by the working group formed by Kiik for the prevention of the spread of the novel coronavirus. Kiik's primary request of the government is that it in principle endorses these proposals, and that if it considers any additional measures necessary, that it provides proposals of its own accordingly.

"The matter of sources of funding will certainly come up — i.e. what will the actual additional cost be, as we know that preventing the virus will require additional human resources, thermal imaging cameras cost money, as will all kinds of protective gear, which is frequently purchased as backup and just in case, but you can't start ordering them once the virus has already spread too far, you have to buy them now already," the minister described.

"The Health Board and Ministry of Social Affairs have calculated that our field's expenses, which largely involve generating reserves in order to be prepared for a situation that may last weeks or months, is in the magnitude of €3 million," Kiik said. "Regarding labor costs, however, this may increase significantly depending on how many people in Estonia end up infected."

If you suspect coronavirus disease

According to the risk assessment of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), current regions considered at risk of novel coronavirus include China, Iran, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and the Northern Italian regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont.

Coronavirus testing can be conducted on individuals who are already exhibiting symptoms of the disease; prior to the development of symptoms such as cough, fever and difficulty breathing, testing will likely provide a false negative result.

If you suspect you have fallen ill with coronavirus disease, call your family doctor or the family doctor hotline at 1220. If you are experiencing more serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call emergency services at 112.

Do not independently seek treatment at a hospital emergency room (ER), which could lead to the potential spread of the virus.

On Saturday, February 29, regular, three-member paramedic brigades were joined in Tallinn by a new, dedicated two-member brigade consisting of a healthcare professional and a tech tasked with responding to potential coronavirus cases.

According to the latest info, COVID-19's symptoms are similar to those of the flu. The virus may cause cough, fever and difficulty breathing. The virus spreads primarily through close contact with infected individuals who are displaying symptoms of the disease, particularly cough.

Commonly referred to as the novel coronavirus, coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by the virus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). COVID-19 was first identified in Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei Province, in late 2019. Worldwide, nearly 90,000 cases of coronavirus disease have since been confirmed, with more than 3,000 deaths attributed to the disease to date.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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