In an emergency situation, people need to be given specific rules of action, chair of the opposition Reform Party Kaja Kallas said on Thursday after a statement by the prime minister that Estonia has reached a situation of emergency when it comes to the spread of the coronavirus.
"The coronavirus is strongly affecting Estonia's day-to-day life and economic activity. The situation in Estonia is serious, and therefore the Estonian government, government institutions and political parties must act united. It is our objective to ensure that the society keeps functioning, albeit in a limited manner, but functioning. The Estonian society no longer needs recommendations, but clear guidelines on how to tackle the coronavirus. If that requires declaring a state of emergency, it has to be done. This is a measure enabling to adopt decisions which would bring clarity," Kallas said.
She added that, first, the country needs guidelines as quickly as possible as to whether and on what conditions people can stay home from work without having to fear loss of income. This requires effective and fast cooperation with all parties to the labor market.
"We need clarity as to what the state's support for employers will be if broader staying home from work should prove necessary. People must know that they can stay home when suspecting to be having the virus without fearing the loss of income. The tabling of a solution on the part of the state when it comes to the preservation of income is critical for further containment of the virus," Kallas said.
Second, municipalities, heads of state institutions and business operators need unambiguous and clear guidelines on how to organize learning in schools and the work of public institutions, as well as more detailed guidelines for the organization of larger collectives of employees.
"Third, in preparing for a cooling of the economy we need to start from obtaining a clear picture of the financial possibilities of our state. We need a realistic overview of the existence of the reserves of the Unemployment Insurance Fund, the Health Insurance Fund and other government reserves. After that we can think how to supplement various reserves if necessary and increase the flexibility of the state budget in order to mitigate the negative economic impacts that go with the coronavirus. At the same time, we must be careful not to start spending in a frenzy, but take steps that are well-targeted and have a real effect," Kallas said.
The Reform Party leader added that, fourth, the Estonian healthcare system is the first front line in the fight against the coronavirus. She said that the country should allocate additional money to healthcare institutions and the social system with a longer-term view, as the costs and specific needs entailed in tackling the virus may persist for longer than we can predict at this point.
Kallas said it is time in Estonia for unity and keeping together.
"Let us be caring towards ourselves, the people close to us, and the Estonian society. Let us make necessary decisions so that the society could function and the spread of the virus would be contained," she said.
Editor: Helen Wright