Government approves coronavirus exit strategy

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Estonian government has approved the coronavirus exit strategy, which has also taken into account proposals from the Riigikogu and other relevant bodies.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), in his twin role as person in charge of the emergency situation, to use the official parlance, emphasized prerequisite for the lifting of restrictions was continued compliance with practices such as proper hygiene, adhering to the 2 + 2 rule (maximum two people gathering in public, families excepted, minimum two meters' distance from others when in public), and wearing masks where necessary.

"The exit strategy provides an overall strategic framework which allows for the necessary management decisions in exiting the crisis, especially on the government committee," said Henry Kattago, Strategy Director at the State Chancellery , according to a government press release issued late on Monday night.

"The strategy does not describe in detail the steps taken out of the crisis for different areas of life, possible additional support measures, detailed guidelines for the easing of restrictions, special conditions or other circumstances. All these more detailed nuances will be further analyzed at other decision-making levels," Kattago added.

Takes scientific approach

Jüri Ratas stated that the aim of the exit strategy is to give Estonia a comprehensive approach to overcoming the coronavirus crisis and to determine the basis and stages of easing restrictions, taking a scientific approach.

"We have had to work together to get the virus under control, and have managed to overcome the most difficult points so far. We can now gradually return to everyday life, mitigating the effects of the virus on society and supporting our people and businesses to emerge stronger and more cohesive," Ratas said, adding that the cabinet will make decisions on when and how to ease restrictions on a weekly basis.

The exit strategy has not been without its critics, who have criticized what they said was its ambiguity, and a lack of dates within the plan.

Interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) said last week that the government could not publish exact dates, implying that it might lead to resuming normal life ahead of those dates. Helme confirmed that the government also has a more detailed exit plan in hand, with specific dates.

Three subsections

Three sub-section plans are to be drawn up with relevant partners to agree on economic, health and border-opening activities, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

Thematic action plans over a longer period of time are also to be prepared by the relevant ministries.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications will prepare an economic recovery action plan for the implementation of the strategy next month, involving stakeholders, and is to specify economic indicators.

The Ministry of Social Affairs is to draw up a health system preparedness plan, to deal with any new outbreaks, including the development of an early detection and contact monitoring system. This is planned for May 2020 at the latest.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in co-operation with partner countries and stakeholders, is to draw up an action plan for the free movement of goods and people.

The strategy will also comprise economic indicators and cover higher and vocational education in its approach to easing restrictions in that field.

Three stages

A number of proposals also addressed in detail the specific conditions and guidelines for easing restrictions – These will be forwarded to the relevant authorities, which will analyze the specific conditions for easing restrictions and develop guidelines.

Last week, the document was sent to Riigikogu factions and partners. During the public consultation, the factions of the Riigikogu and the members of the Riigikogu and nearly 15 non-governmental organizations submitted their proposals for the exit strategy.

The exit strategy is divided into three stages. The first covers the escalation of the outbreak, and the second stage, which Estonia has entered already, stabilization in terms of medical indicators, when phasing out restrictions that have been imposed can begin. 

The third stage involves a return to normal life, which requires, among other things, preparedness for any potential future virus outbreaks. 

Stage 1 has already begun, according to the government's website, which included restoration of planned, non-coronavirus-related medical treatments.

The established restrictions have been set in chronological and priority order, and their impact on the spread of the infection is being assessed. Restrictions will be relaxed step by step under certain conditions, if agreed indicators allow.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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