Prime minister: Emergency situation will end when diagnosis rate falls ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Contamination warning at North Estonia Medical Center (PERH) in Tallinn.
Contamination warning at North Estonia Medical Center (PERH) in Tallinn. Source: Aivar Kullamaa/PERH

As things are moving so quickly, it is impossible to say if the emergency situation ill end on May 1 as currently scheduled, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said on Wednesday. The most important indicator will be if the rate of coronavirus diagnosis starts to fall continuously.

Ratas (Center) said on Vikerraadio's program "Stuudios on peaminister" it is better than the emergency situation and accompanying restrictions last a month longer than necessary than a week to less.

He said the government will definitely take into account what is happening in neighboring countries, but the decision to extend or end the state of emergency will still be made largely on the basis of what is happening in Estonia. This includes how many people are being hospitalized or are in intensive care.

He said: "One important indicator is if the number of people infected is falling every day. At present, this figure is stable and more than 30 people are being diagnosed every day. We are seeing an increase in the number of hospital admissions and more and more people in need of intensive care. These are indicators that will help us to decide when to return to normal. The state of emergency is currently until May 1, but, of course, the government wants to end it as soon as possible."

Currently, there is no reason for a two-week quarantine

The show's presenters asked Ratas whether, instead of the current restrictions, it would be better to impose a total lockdown, and then completely lift the restrictions on May 1 to restart the economy.

He said: "Is it worth introducing a complete ban, this is a big question, we must take other factors into account. For me, the most important thing is people's health and life. Listening to the recommendations from the Scientific Council, they believe that today's measures are working. Do we introduce new restrictions? They are not needed at the moment. But this does not mean that tonight or tomorrow morning the situation will not change and [something] must be done. But these decisions must be based on the opinion of scientists."

The prime minister said several countries have adopted the view that 60 percent of society should suffer from the virus in order to develop immunity, but at the same time risk groups - the elderly and people with chronic diseases - must be helped.

He said: "But I don't think we can just let the high peak of infection lead to high immunity. Then a lot of people will get sick and a lot of people will die. That's not what I support. The question is this: whether a virus outbreak dictates our lives or we do everything we can to stop it? Our goal is to prevent the virus from spreading until a drug or, more importantly, a long-term vaccine is available. The aim is to avoid overburdening the hospitals and the healthcare system in the meantime. In countries where there are no movement restrictions, the virus has infected hospital staff."

While discussing foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu proposal on Tuesday night's "Esimene stuudio" that one of the prerequisites for the ending of the emergency situation is mass testing of the population, Ratas said no one is against mass testing, but what matters is how reliable these tests are and that they do not currently exist.

Ratas said: "When we talk about mass testing, we're actually talking about taking the test at home ourselves. It has to be so easy that people can do it themselves."

Ratas defended the Health Board

The prime minister also responded to criticism of the Health Board which has also been made by his coalition partner, Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE). The Prime Minister said that he did not consider it right to start micro-crises within a major global crisis.

He said: "Do we need to make staff changes and remove the Director General of the Agency? We are in a great crisis, the epicenter of which has not yet reached us. I do not think it is right to create micro-crises when we are in a major global crisis. Accusations that someone should have done more? The whole world has not been able to do this and could not foresee it. Of course, we could have been better equipped with personal protective equipment and we are holding our breath so that the planes will come with it from China to Estonia in the coming days. We need to learn our lessons, but we are starting to inflame the crisis now, that is not right."

The presenters said that the head of the Health Board had been proposing to increase crisis stocks for years, but these have always been rejected. Ratas replied that when making the state budget, all ministries submit additional applications and it is a fact that not all applications of the Ministry of Social Affairs have ever been approved. 

"And even if we get out of the crisis, it will continue so that ministries have more wishes than the taxpayer can carry out. Of course, this will teach us a lesson to review our reserves," Ratas said. He added arguing about who had or had not supported previous proposals would not be productive.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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