Number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Estonia now 79

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Health Board infections laboratory, where coronavirus tests are conducted.
Health Board infections laboratory, where coronavirus tests are conducted. Source: Government Office.

A total of 79 people have been confirmed with the coronavirus, the Health Board (Terviseamet) said Friday evening, meaning the virus is now spreading from person-to-person inside the country. The government is also likely to introduce new restrictions, including closing public swimming pools, gyms, sports centers and even shopping malls.

While on Friday morning 21 more people were identified with the virus in Harju County, with 16 on Saaremaa and 4 in Tartu County, there are now more cases in other parts of Estonia, where individuals have picked up the virus inside Estonia, said Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) at a press conference of the government's coronavirus commission.

New cases have been identified in Pärnu County and Ida-Viru County, as well as other locations.

Ester Öpik, head of the Health Board's norther regional office, told current affairs show "Ringvaade" on Friday night that the board's laboratory has analyzed more than 700 samples in total, with the latest data disclosing 79 positive samples.

The majority of cases are in Tallinn and Harju County, Võru County and on Saaremaa.

"The good news here is that not all 79 need hospital treatment, they are at home and in stable condition," Öpik added.

Army conscript one of those testing positive for coronavirus

On of the positive cases found Friday was an Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) conscript, serving with the Kalev infantry battalion.

The individual had been at a volleyball match held last weekend on Saaremaa which featured a visiting team from northern Italy, one of the most heavily affected areas in Europe.

He had started to present with symptoms from Monday night and went to the military infirmary on Tuesday morning, ERR's online news in Estonian reports, and was placed in isolation and tested for coronavirus.

After his test came back positive on Friday, close to 150 conscripts and eight regular soldiers from the Kalev battalion were immediately placed into quarantine. No other EDF units are currently in quarantine, which involves being kept in isolation for two weeks and fed via a thermos placed at the door which they then use to feed themselves. The individuals can remain in cellphone contact and receive parcels by mail or delivered to their Paldiski barracks, it is reported.

According to an EDF doctor, there are currently no more symptomatic cases presenting among those quarantined or elsewhere.

Finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) said that Estonia has reached the second phase of the coronavirus pandemic, and stressed that now the most important goal is to reduce person-to-person contact, which has also led to restrictions.

"Over the next few days, we are likely to have to confirm infections that occurred before the new restrictions were introduced. We will see an increase in cases in the next 10 to 15 days. The peak should arrive in two to three weeks," Helme went on.

"We are already looking at closing down swimming pools, gyms and shopping malls."

Tanel Kiik also said that the government commission has met with the head of the unemployment fund, since it has to decide on how the unemployment fund (Töötukassa) plans to support those with the virus or who are self-quarantining, who have to stay at home for two to six weeks without pay.

Kiik added that the situation in Saaremaa was also discussed in the committee. While Kiik had earlier on Friday said that the entire island of Saaremaa might have quarantine conditions imposed, since the cases had already spread to the mainland and to counties across the country, this was now off the table.

At the same time, the recommendation to avoid travel to the island was still in place, and the commission discussed ways to support the main hospital on the island.

Health Board: We're focusing on severe cases now rather than figures

In any case, the Health Board spokesperson Martin Kadai said earlier on Friday that since the coronavirus is spreading from person-to-person, the new strategy will be to focus on the most severe cases and the most at-risk patients, rather than determining each individual case by testing.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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