Prime minister: We are unfortunately still in coronavirus deepening phase

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) during Sunday night's address.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) during Sunday night's address. Source: ERR

The current emergency situation imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic and its accompanying restrictions have an end point, but we do not know as yet when we might be able to return gradually to normal, everyday life, said Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) Sunday evening. The authorities are working to reach answers to these questions, Ratas, who is also overall heads up the emergency situation, said, in a spoken statement broadcast on ERR's tv channel ETV, which follows.

A week from now, a month will have passed since the establishment of an emergency situation in Estonia. To date we have conducted over 21,000 coronavirus tested and identified almost 1,100 infected individuals. I extent my deepest condolences to the families of the victims of COVID-19, and wish them every health in the fight against this disease.

The established restrictions and responsible human behavior have helped to keep the growth of the number of infections stable in Estonia. Hopefully this will be followed by a decline in morbidity in the coming weeks. Until there is a breakthrough on the virus' outbreak, we must all carry on as if we ourselves were carriers of the virus. We must avoid the slightest possibility of passing it on to someone else.

This is why we are very concerned about the almost daily reports of people and groups which are undermining the efforts of our whole society. No event or gathering is worth the risk that the disease could be spread imperceptibly to others. We have seen, through the painful example of many countries, how great this risk is.

You yourself can return from being in company in a seemingly healthy way, but pass on a deadly illness to your elderly family members or a neighbor in poor health. 

In the same way, someone you were in company with could also pass on the infection, leading to your hospitalization. Behind the statistics of those infected, hospitalized, in need of intensive care or losing their lives lies people and families from among us all, whose concerns and grief are deep and real.

Throughout the course of the coronavirus' spread, much has been said about the wearing and effectiveness of protective masks and normal face masks. There is nothing shameful about wanting to keep yourself and others healthy. As a result, wearing a face mask in crowded places during viral outbreaks in Estonia should also become a social norm.

This need not be a medical mast. Our Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA-ed.) has created a tutorial on how to make masks at home, and what to keep in mind when wearing them. You can find this guide on the agency's website (link in Estonian-ed.), in government information channels or in the media.

Estonia lies in the upper group of countries in terms of the number of coronavirus samples per person conducted. At the same time, we are still hearing of people with severe symptoms who have not received a referral for testing. 

Naturally, the most important consideration is to focus on protecting groups at risk, but family doctors have the right to refer people from all other groups exhibiting symptoms, to testing. I thank the family doctors who have acted in this way and I continue to call for this situation to continue.

The special situation and the restrictions set will end at some point. We do not yet know when we will gradually be able to return to our normal lives, but we are working to get these questions answered. Unfortunately, we are still in a phase where the outbreak is worsening, but by working together, we can also reach stabilization and [then] decline [of new cases]. In the meantime, we have to endure the inconveniences and keep everyone safe.

The Government Office is at present preparing an exit plan from the crisis together with medical experts, researchers, state agencies and companies and civic associations. This can only be based on facts, scientific analysis and our best knowledge. Here, too, there lies a simple principle – it is better to be a little over-scared, than to seriously regret things afterwards.

I sincerely thank all our people who are in the frontline fighting the virus in their day-to-day work, and others who support them via their work. I am also grateful to the people of Estonia, who have followed the rules and recommendations established to limit the spread of the virus, and in so doing protect everyone's life and well-being. I wish us all health, and be careful.

The prime minister's original broadcast (in Estonian) is here.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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