Commander of the Estonian Defense Forces Maj. Gen. Martin Herem on Monday decided to extend the ban on the granting of leave to conscripts until May 1 to prevent exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
"The defense forces continue the conduct of training with restrictions, enforcing additional health protection measures for preventing potential spread of the virus," Herem said in a statement. He said the aim of the defense forces is to continue the day-to-day service for the preparation of reserve units and maintaining combat readiness at the required level.
Commenting on the decision to restrict conscripts to bases, the defense chief said that where on the one hand the defense forces could not discontinue defending the state or weaken its defense, on the other hand he was also quite convinced that with said steps they were protecting the people at home and the country in general against an even wider spread of the virus.
If conscripts were granted leave for weekends, the number of infected people in the defense forces would increase and the defense forces would not be able to perform their duties, Herem said.
"If the number of those ill among the conscripts increases, we are able to see to their treatment and quickly separate them from healthy conscripts," the defense chief said.
The chief doctor of the defense forces, Lt. Col. Targo Lusti, said the defense forces have taken several measures to restrict the spread of the virus in the bases of the defense forces and in and out. The defense forces have managed to prevent the spread of the virus within the defense forces to date, he said.
The movement of active-service personnel connected with the training of conscripts has been restricted, and they will spend the night at the base if possible. Service members with symptoms of illness must switch to remote work if possible.
"We have the capability to isolate, we can see to the treatment. We also have responsibility before the conscripts, for whom we can ensure accommodation, food, and medical care if necessary at the defense forces. If they were outside of bases, that would not be possible," Lusti added.
As measures of precaution, quarantine and isolation are applied in the defense forces. Service members who have fallen ill are quarantined in separate premises. Isolation is applied to service members who have no symptoms but in whose case there is a suspicion that they may have come into contact with a virus carrier.
Conscripts in the military bases can be contacted on their personal mobile phones or, if that is not possible, via the on-duty officer of the military unit. It continues to be possible to send parcels to conscripts in accordance with the regulations valid at the unit.
Editor: Helen Wright