Health Board: Coronavirus spread, emergency situation length unpredictable ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Martin Kadai.
Martin Kadai. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The coronavirus spread and the likely shelf-life of the current emergency situation are subject to a great deal of uncertainty, the Health Board (Terviseamet) says. At the same time, encouraging best practices including hygiene and the wearing of proper masks can go a long way going forward.

Saaremaa is the only region in Estonia where the spread of the virus could be taken as extensive, taking into consideration the size of the population (a little over 31,000- with 422 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as compared with 339 cases in Harju County with nearly 20 times the population-ed.), the Health Board's emergency medicine departmental head Martin Kadai said, speaking at a press conference Monday.

In addition to among the island's general populace, the disease has prevailed not only in nursing homes, but also in health care institutions and some entire families, he continued.

The number of people in need of hospital treatment is growing slowly but steadily, Kadai added, saying that as a rule, only people over the age of 50 who contract the virus need hospital treatment, with some exceptions.

The share of those who gave a positive test has not changed significantly over time, Kadai said, and remains at about 5 percent of the total tested. Of those found positive – 1,108 at the time of writing – the bulk of these contracted the virus inside Estonia, with about 100 probably picking it up while traveling abroad.

Next two to three weeks critical on emergency situation shelf-life

The next two to three weeks will be decisive in connection with public behavior. Decisions can be made as to whether the emergency will finish as scheduled at the end of April or whether there is a reason to extend it beyond that, based on this behavior, he said.

Kadai added that the outbreak could conceivably continue into June, adding that this was somewhat intentional in that the special measures introduced aimed at slowing the spread within a timeframe.

Worldwide, coronavirus still spreading

Kadai put his remarks in the context of the global trend with the virus, which is still generally spreading.

"The disease is still unpacking," he said, adding that even the spread is characterized by great uncertainty, so no country's model can be adopted above all others in order to predict its propagation. 

Only short-term forecasts are reliable, he said, meaning it cannot be confirmed whether the emergency situation will be sufficient through to the end of April to slow down the viral spread in Estonia sufficiently.

Masks can actually be counter-productive

On the issue of masks, Kadai said that an infected person using a mask whose valve does not filter the virus out of their exhaled breathing actually endangers those around them with the risk of contracting it.

Kadai also stressed the importance of a "clean hands" culture in Estonia, as well as not going to work when ill, and wearing an effective mask in public. This goes for viruses in general, he added.

Kadai also confirmed that no experimental treatment methods, such as the use of anti-malarial drugs, are to be tested on patients with Estonian coronavirus. Only if such experiments elsewhere should achieve a scientific breakthrough would Estonia reconsider its stance on this, he said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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