Health Board: We agree with easing COVID-19 restrictions soon

Health Board northern regional chief, Ester Öpik.
Health Board northern regional chief, Ester Öpik. Source: ERR

The Health Board (Terviseamet) has expressed agreement with those who argue restrictions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic should be eased as soon as was realistically possible, particularly regarding the halt in scheduled hospital treatments, and the longer-term, continued quarantining of the elderly. The stepping-down should be done cautiously, however, the board said.

"It is very important to restore scheduled treatment - this is a priority, it is a necessary service for people," said Ester Öpik, Health Board northern district chief, on Sunday.

This restoration should be done piecemeal, however, Öpik said, to mitigate coronavirus infection risk.

"We have developed criteria for how to start the planned treatment step-by-step. We are finalizing these criteria, in coordination with both service providers and professional associations," Öpik continued, according to ERR's online news in Estonian, and echoing words of the same organization's head of emergency medicine, Doctor Arkadi Popov.

Elderly can't be cooped up to year end

Öpik also expressed reservations about President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen's claim that he elderly should remain quarantined at home until the end of the year, in order to reduce the risk, noting that this had its downsides which needed to be weighed up against considerations of curbing the virus' spread.

"Here, we have to think about the human aspect. In addition to health [aspects], there are social and economic ones. The elderly have already been isolated up to now; they have not been able to visit with family members to the desired extent, and grandparents have not met their grandchildren. It is difficult to imagine a world where older people are completely cut off from other people. or grandparents cannot come into contact with their grandchildren. It's a sad picture."

Öpik also said that it ought to be up to individual states as to what is reasonably regarding restrictions, and what is not.

Schools' spring break requires discipline to avoid setbacks

Öpik also said that as a general rule, coronavirus spreads via family members and colleagues, though it has on occasions thrown out some surprises too.

"It is quite common for new cases to originate with close relatives of already-infected family members … [or] close colleagues. Some cases are also appearing daily which are harder to ascertain how the patient picked up the infection," she continued.

With the school spring holidays starting Monday, Öpik doubled down on the calls for families to adhere to the existing regulations, as around 10 percent of cases so far have appeared among school children.

"Ten percent of those infected are school children, so they may be carriers of the virus," she said.

Details on ventilators, asymptomatic cases

Öpik also gave feedback on the priorities with ventilators for those in hospital due to the virus.

As of Sunday, 10 people are on ventilators in hospitals' coronavirus wards nationwide; the decision whether to place a patient on a ventilator is made jointly by a committee of doctors, taking into consideration the patient's comorbidities and general health, which is in fact the same procedure as any other decisions on ventilators.

Those on ventilators at present range in age from 55 to 77, Öpik added.

On the issue of asymptomatic coronavirus infections, this will become clearer in due course and after the pandemic has subsided, she went on.

"The presence of asymptomatic carriers is certainly possible, as the experience of other countries has shown. A numerical overview will arrive when we have the opportunity to test people after the pandemic, where we detect the virus in the bloodstreams of those who do not report feeling unwell. From this, doctors can put the picture together and say how many people we had who were asymptomatic."

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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