The government at its Monday meeting approved the installation of thermal imaging cameras at Tallinn Airport and the Old Harbor at the Port of Tallinn as well as the proposal to install disinfectants in public institutions. Where exactly the sources of funding will come from to pay for these measures will be discussed by the government on Thursday.
A working group led by Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) proposed combating the spread of the novel coronavirus by monitoring the health status of travelers at Tallinn Airport and Old Harbor with the help of thermal imaging cameras. Arrivals in Estonia at these two ports of entry will be monitored by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) in order to identify arrivals from at-risk regions whose health should be monitored. The government approved this proposal.
The government likewise approved the proposal to install disinfectants at airports, ports, bus stations, schools and educational institutions and other public institutions and businesses.
In accordance with a proposal by the working group, the government is recommending anyone returning from at-risk areas abroad to remain at home for a period of two weeks if possible and necessary, and work together with their employers to figure out options for working from home if possible. If no such opportunity exists and the individual falls ill, they should contact their family doctor, who will assess the situation and, if necessary, issue a sick leave certificate.
The government supported the Health Board's recommendation for children returning from at-risk areas to stay home from school or kindergarten for two weeks if possible, completing their studies via distance learning. Each educational institution has the right to make their own decisions at their discretion regarding necessary changes to teaching arrangements.
The government likewise supported the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' and Health Board's recommendations not to travel to at-risk areas. The state recommends all Estonian residents review their travel plans and make judicious decisions regarding them.
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. Where exactly the sources of funding will come from to pay for these measures will be discussed by the government at its next Cabinet meeting this Thursday.
Kiik's working group drew up several proposals aimed at combating the spread of the virus, including checks of those who have returned from at-risk aras, the expansion of Health Board staff, and the issuing of additional guidelines for residents, institutions as well as businesses; the government will discuss these measures on Thursday.
The minister was glad that his working group's proposals received the approval of the government.
"These were very broad-based preparations in which most ministries, the Health Board, the State Agency of Medicines, the Health Insurance Fund, the PPA and the Rescue Board all took part," Kiik said. "In working out these proposals, we also met with representatives of the Port of Tallinn and Tallinn Airport, Tallinn hospitals, paramedics, and family doctors, and we also discussed necessary measures with representatives of pharmacists as well as pharmaceuticals producers and drug wholesalers."
He noted that coronavirus has been tested for over 70 times in Estonia, adding that the situation remains stable and no new cases have been confirmed since Estonia's first case last week. Nonetheless, he added, the state must be prepared for the worst.
Ratas: Unsubstantiated fears can cause damage too
According to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), officials in Estonia have been very dedicated in the prevention of the spread of the coronavirus, but in order to clarify the situation and share balanced information regarding possible risks, they must further step up efforts, as in addition to the spread of the virus itself, damage can also be done by unsubstantiated fears and prejudices.
"Certainly worth highlighting is the responsible behavior of our only known infected compatriot, who sought medical help himself after suspecting the virus," Ratas said. "As a result, his infection was diagnosed and he quickly received expert care."
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.
Editor: Aili Vahtla