Chairman of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) Indrek Saar has sent a letter to the government saying that it is not possible to say "stay home" to people any more, and decide about opening malls and other buildings at the same time. Instead of this, society needs a new message along the lines of: "You can go out now but…", which would explain how to restore social contacts in a way that would minimize the spread of the virus, Saar says.
Saar writes in a letter to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) and the government that there lies a fundamental error in the management plan of exiting the coronavirus crisis.
"The [exit plan] document has set out that waiving the restrictions is planned as decisions made every week by the crisis committee. It doesn´t appear in the document which stages are required to waive these restrictions, and whether a couple of restrictions are being relaxed at the same time or as a larger set."
Saar points out that the decision-making after every week, until all the restrictions are gone sometime in the further future, not only leaves society uninformed, but can be dangerous.
"The main epidemiological criterion that we need to monitor is the number of people needing hospital treatment because we need to ensure that the hospitals will cope."
Saar also brings out proposals by the Social Democrats on how to exit the crisis.
"The state has to decide on measures which will be set for a longer time. The remaining measures should be divided into three groups in the sense of increasing the impact of social contact. Starting with the most acute ones, and to finish all the restrictions with three two-week steps. If the mitigations were to be established at the beginning of May, the three steps should be taken on May 1, May 15, and the mitigation phase would be passed by May 29."
If by the time of establishing the second and third, the number of infected has increased significantly, the subsequent mitigations can be postponed, Saar said.
"This way, we can ensure that we are making the decisions taking into account the epidemiological situation and making the decisions based on a clear schedule at the same time."
"We are advising to involve psychologists, sociologists, behavioral scientists who would be able to evaluate human behavior," Saar said, noting that this should be the focus during the next couple of weeks.
Saar writes that the document on exiting the crisis, that the government forwarded, is far from what the Estonian society needs.
"Considering the crisis situation and the pressure that the crisis managers are working under, we are not trying to belittle the work you have done. But we are asking you to consider how important the named plan is. How Estonian people will do in the coming years, is largely dependant on how successfully we manage to go back to the normal life," Saar writes.
Reform Party: The exit strategy needs more specificity
The largest opposition party, the Reform Party, also submitted their proposed amendments to the exiting strategy of the government. In the proposal, the party suggests adding more specific economic indicators and the economic recovery plan.
"We think the publicly presented version should be made significantly more specific and give the public a better understanding of what changes in pandemic indicators will lead to easing or strengthening the restrictions. We want the exit strategy to be used as a roadmap to return to normal," the Reform Party said in its letter.
The party suggests supplementing 10 strategy points. More specifically, they want to change the economic indicators, supplement the opening of the Estonia-Finland and Estonia-Latvia borders, and to answer questions on how the state will prepare for the next virus outbreak, and which economic measures will be established in exiting the crisis.
The Reform Party also recommends that the strategy include criteria for compensating for the effects of the emergency situation on the sectors and regions that have been directly affected.
"Estonians are waiting for a clear overview and explanation on what are they making an effort and tolerating the strict restrictions for, from the emergency situation managers. The more unclear the messages are, the more probable it is that people will change their behaviors and an uncontrollable and independent opening of the society will happen. Understandably, this solution is potentially more dangerous than a well thought out and coordinated approach," the letter notes.
The government published the "Exiting strategy of the situation caused by COVID-19" on April 22 and asked for improvements from the Riigikogu fractions by April 27.
Editor: Roberta Vaino