Fortunately, Estonia's initial coronavirus (COVID-19) forecast has not materialized, the Health Board said on Monday, but warned there is no place for complacency as the virus is cunning and a sudden leap of diagnosed cases could occur unexpectedly. Rules enforcing self-isolation and a ban on public gatherings must also be stuck too.
Martin Kadai, head of the emergency department at the Health Board, said at a press conference: "Fortunately, the prediction that was initially feared - that more cases will occur each day than were diagnosed on the previous day - has not materialized."
He added: "Looking at the dynamics of the spread in Estonia, in comparison with other countries, we can say that we have detected the disease locally at an early stage, we have not missed it."
Kadai said his opinion is also supported by scientific literature and the experience of other countries. Widespread sampling with specialized ambulance teams and extensive outreach efforts at the early stages of the virus outbreak has helped prevent the worst-case forecasts from coming true.
"However, this is not a reason to let go or to claim the threat has disappeared. We need to look at the dynamics of the spread globally and it is on the rise, probably in Estonia too," Kadai warned.
He said COVID-19 is a creeping or insidious disease. It can seem the initial outbreak is under control but then the situation suddenly gets out of control. Therefore, Estonia must also remain vigilant and stick to the established rules: the sick need to be quarantined at home, there should be little or no contact with others, and no group or public gatherings should be held.
Family doctor: Don't take children to playgrounds or Viru Raba
Kadai was supported by family doctor Karmen Joller, who insisted family physicians, family nurses and other medical staff who are high-risk and front-line staff can only avoid getting sick themselves if patients and the public stick to the rules.
She said family doctors have realized that, in future, they may also become infected so some doctors are currently not working so they can step-in as replacements for those who fall sick.
Joller admitted protective masks currently being used by family doctors and nurses do not meet the highest level of protection, but she hoped the right protective masks would arrive in a week's time. The current masks will have to be used until the new ones arrive.
Joller said morbidity can increase very suddenly, as experience shows in other countries, and she said the realization of this risk depends on everyone. But she added doctors have been preparing for a rapid and sudden rise in morbidity.
She said it would be best if the increase of cases is gentle rather than a sudden surge, saying this is the only way the medical system can cope, and that a surge would be an additional burden.
She said preparations have been made to isolate people with symptoms of infection both temporally and spatially.
Joller also warned people to be sensible and not go to crowded places: "Don't take children to playgrounds or Viru Raba where it is almost impossible to pass each other without hugging each other!" She also told people not to go to the supermarket in groups but only send one person from each family at a time.
She also advised against listening to people who are not experts, such as physicists, mathematicians or chemists. People who may be highly competent in their own field, but are not specialists in medicine or virology. Instead, she said recommendations and assessments from specialists - such as epidemiologists, virologists - should be listened to. She said family physicians also rely on specialist information.
"If you get sick, you still go to the doctor, not go to the chemist!" she reasoned.
Editor: Helen Wright