Riina Sikkut: Emergency situation requires extraordinary empathy

Riina Sikkut
Riina Sikkut Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

A lot of people in Estonia are working under extraordinary pressure caused by an increased workload and the risk of being infected, Social Democratic Party (SDE) MP and former health minister Riina Sikkut writes.

We are living in an emergency situation. We will observe the Health Board's guidelines for avoiding the risk of infection and the government's orders on how to behave in an emergency. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said: "I ask for the support of everyone in Estonia. I'm convinced we can defeat this nasty virus together. But, of course, life will go on, buses will come and people will go to work."

Among us are people who are quarantined at home, those working today just as they did yesterday but also those who have little or no work, such as people in the tourism business. At the same time, a lot of people in Estonia are working under immense pressure caused by an increased workload and the risk of being infected.

They are healthcare workers, pharmacists, Health Board operatives, bus drivers, cashiers, kindergarten teachers and border guards. They are expected to manage others' anxiety, offer help and avoid taking unnecessary risks themselves.

We must all have patience and kindness for those in so-called crisis professions. That is to say that in cases where the ambulance is not immediately dispatched whenever someone reports a cough, people need to avoid close contact, monitor symptoms and call the family doctor hotline 1220 to ask for advice instead. Perhaps the ambulance is seeing to someone who has difficulty breathing.

If an exhausted family nurse asks you to wait, there is no sense in blaming queues on them. If the cashier fails to smile at you in the supermarket, it is likely she has already sold record-breaking quantities of goods and simply does not have the strength to smile anymore.

If a kindergarten teacher says that a child exhibiting symptoms cannot come in, a city bus driver refuses to open the front door of the bus or a server keeps their distance, perhaps they have had several people cough on them and are afraid of being infected. The border guard is not to blame for people having to fill out forms and the process taking longer than usual.

All of them keep our society functioning and also in extraordinary situations. Let us be understanding and kind. To avoid the danger of infection and treat milder symptoms, guidelines need to be followed. Let us use common sense to allow the healthcare system to attend to those who are gravely ill first.

Medical assistance is needed urgently in case of life-threatening or severe symptoms. There is no sense in calling your family doctor to ask whether you should invite 36 people to your birthday two weeks from now or whether a sore throat calls for tea with or without honey. If you have trouble breathing, you should call an ambulance right away.

Everyone needs to be the best version of themselves in a crisis. We can beat this virus together. There will be time for indignation once the coronavirus has been dealt with. And because family doctors agree that humor is always helpful – things from China usually do not last long.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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