The government has approved a decision which will see €200 million used to compensate for expenses hospitals, ambulances and family doctors are facing because of the coronavirus outbreak, social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center) said at a press conference on Wednesday.
According to Kiik, additional funds will be provided for the period of March through May in order to help cover the costs of employing additional workforce, overtime work; acquiring protective equipment, ventilators, medicine and coronavirus test kits and reorganizing the work of hospitals. It is also being used to reimburse additional sick and care leave notes.
Under normal conditions, the occupancy rate of hospitals in Estonia stands at 70 percent. The minister noted that the rate may be lower for the time being so more people infected could be hospitalized if necessary. Lower occupancy rate will also reduce the contamination risk.
How the virus has spread in Estonia and which are the possible trends, measures and their impact is under debate, Kiik said.
"Regarding different models, we have to keep in mind that we cannot assess accurately what the reproductive number (the number of secondary infections generated from one infected individual - ed.) was before the restrictions were implemented or what it will be tomorrow. The objective remains same - to get the spread of the virus under control. The reproductive number has to be under 1. This means that one infected individual must infect - better no one - but no more than one person so the number of carriers will gradually decrease."
According to Kiik, the restrictions implemented by the government have in any case decreased the reproductive number.
On Tuesday, it was agreed by the emergency committee that at least 2 meters distance between people should be kept in public places, such as outdoor playgrounds, sports grounds, beaches, promenades, health and hiking trails and indoors, except in homes and when this cannot be ensured. Up to two people are allowed to be together in public space. This restriction does not apply to families living and moving around together, and to people performing public duties. The space requirement between people came into effect today, March 25.
Second, the emergency committee agreed to close shopping centres, except for grocery stores, pharmacies, telecommunication outlets, bank offices, parcel stations, and stores selling or renting assistant and medical devices on the basis of an assistant card or medical device card as of March 27.
Restrictions will be reviewed after two weeks.
Editor: Anders Nõmm