Twenty-three people are being observed after being exposed to the COVID-19 coronavirus but not every case needs hospitalization, the authorities said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Ester Öpik, head of the Northern Regional Department of the Health Board, and Martin Kadai, head of the emergency department at the Health Board, gave an overview of the situation in Estonia on Wednesday.
Patients who have been in close contact with coronavirus patients are being treated at home and monitored by the Health Board. The Health Board sees no reason why public gatherings should be banned, borders reintroduced, or it necessary to declare a public emergency.
So far there have been two patients test positive for the coronavirus in Estonia. The second case was confirmed yesterday. 100 people have been tested for the virus and 98 results were negative.
Öpik said the Health Board (Terviseamet) is aware of nine people who have been in contact with the first patient in Estonia and are communicating with them daily. They are also communicating with 14 people who were on a flight with a Latvian citizen who later tested positive for the virus.
She said inquires are still being made to find any people who were on the same flight as the second positive testing patient in Estonia, who arrived by plane from Bergamo, Italy to Riga on February 29. They later drove to Estonia in private transport.
Öpik said it is irrelevant whether these passengers are Estonian citizens or permanent residents, but everyone who later traveled to Estonia from this flight will be monitored.
If someone has visited a risk area such as China, northern Italy, Iran, Japan, Singapore and South Korea Öpik said people should monitor their health for 14 days.
"In that case, we recommend that they simply monitor their health and contact their family physician if they develop symptoms," Öpik said, adding that people with the symptoms should not go to the emergency department or GP but to call them instead.
People who have been within three meters on the same means of transport are considered to be close contacts. This means the two rows of seats in front or behind on the plane or bus. "Not everyone in the same vehicle will have been in close contact," she stressed.
Coronavirus disease does not necessarily mean hospitalization
Martin Kadai, head of the emergency department at the Health Board, said that 80 percent of coronavirus cases are mild to moderate, according to a report by the WHO's China mission. This is encouraging, he said, and is similar to flu, where the majority of cases are also mild.
As of Tuesday, some 90,000 cases and 3124 deaths had been confirmed worldwide. China accounts for 90 percent of the cases, with Italy accounting for the majority of European cases.
The Health Board assesses the risk of introduction of the disease in Estonia as high, the probability of a limited spread locally is medium and the probability of the virus become widespread is predicted to be low.
Kadai said the Health Board is monitoring the situation around the clock and is ready to change its risk assessment and strategy if necessary. The board does not see the need to ban public events at this time, but has issued guidelines for organizers and local authorities on how to ensure infection safety at events.
The Health Board does not consider it necessary to close border crossing points.
However, the board is advising people to avoid traveling to risk areas and if they have done so or have been in close contact with a confirmed patient, they should monitor their health within 14 days. Hygiene rules should be followed and hands washed thoroughly and stayed at home in the event of acute respiratory infections.
The season of influenza and other acute respiratory infections usually ends in March-April and there is much speculation that the new coronavirus will disappear with the arrival of spring and sun. Kadai said it could not be sure because it is a new strain and there is currently no scientific confirmation of such a theory.
Tallinn is cleaning public transport handles several times a day
On Tuesday evening, the Tallinn Crisis Committee met and was briefed by the Health Board on how to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Chairman of the Tallinn Crisis Committee, Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart said that city authorities should be prepared to work during a virus outbreak and to share the information they need.
Tallinn Transport has installed disinfection equipment at public transport stops and is cleaning public transport handles several times a day. In addition, the company plans to provide health guidelines for passengers on public transport.
Martin Kadai said at the meeting that the most effective way to prevent the virus is to wash your hands. It is recommended that a mask be worn by the affected person to avoid spreading the virus. A healthy person does not need to wear a mask.
The Tallinn Crisis Commission has approved the emergency plan for Tallinn and updated the composition of the crisis management team.
Editor: Helen Wright