Health Board: Relaxation measures could be started for children under 10

Playgrounds in Tartu were closed on March 24.
Playgrounds in Tartu were closed on March 24. Source: Mana Kaasik

Relaxation of crisis measures may happen first among the under 10s where the spread of the coronavirus has been lowest, the Health Board said on Thursday.

Mari-Anne Härma, Head of the Infectious Diseases Surveillance and Epidemic Control Department of the Health Board, said at a press conference on Thursday the infection rate in children is very low, which is the same for pregnant women. Children have weaker symptoms and are recovering more quickly than adults.

Härma was asked where the relaxation of measures imposed by the emergency situation could start and she said this could be done among those under 10 years of age, where the prevalence is lowest.

"They are not a risk group. If we look at Denmark and Norway, where the infection rate and the course of the epidemic have been similar to ours, they have opened primary schools. Here, we should think about whether Estonia could start moving there to open childcare institutions."

The peak of illness was in early April

Härma said the Infection Surveillance Department of the Health Board monitors longer-term trends and that individual cases are less important. There are currently fewer cases diagnosed now than several weeks ago, which show a downward trend. One the first few days of April, 148 people were diagnosed but in contrast, a total of 276 new cases have been added in the last 14 days.

The peak of illness was in Estonia on April 5, when there were 56.5 sick people per 100,000 inhabitants.

The majority of new cases have been diagnosed in Northern Estonia and most of them in Tallinn. But the trend of new infections in Tallinn is also downward.

Most people, 37 percent, are infected within their family circle. In the rest of patients, 20 percent have become infected at work and 16 percent in a nursing home or social institution. But for 19 percent of patients, it is not known where they contracted the virus.

"As long as there are people with unknown sources of infections, we can say that the national spread of the disease will continue," said Härma.

There have been a total of 410 cases with unknown sources of infection, but their number has also begun to decline.

Probability of contact with a carrier is 1 in 5,000

Härma said the probability a person will come into contact with an infected person is 1 in 5000. However, patients must still be quarantined and cannot move around.

Of the confirmed positive cases, 61.3 percent have recovered, 35.7 percent are still ill and three percent have died.

By region, the trend is falling everywhere. At the same time, it went up quickly in Saaremaa, but also down quickly.

"In Saaremaa, it went up and down faster than in other counties, which allows us to conclude that the measures used there were very effective," said Härma.

Estonian mortality is lower than the average of the last 10 years

She also pointed out some surprising statistics - despite the coronavirus, Estonia is currently below the mortality rate of the last ten years. This is also one of the important indicators for the World Health Organization (WHO) to consider mitigating measures.

Another important indication for the WHO is when the proportion of positive tests is less than 5 percent of all tests. Estonia has been below this number since the beginning of April and currently, the average is 3.2 percent.

In addition, the WHO considers it important that at least one test should be carried our per thousand people. Estonia is above this target.

Estonia's indicators are much better than the European average

Estonia has fewer patients in need of hospital treatment and ventilation than the European average. The number of patients in hospitals is also decreasing. Looking at the statistics, 33 people have needed to use ventilators which is 2 percent of the sick and 8 percent of hospitalized patients.

The death rate of hospitalized cases is 3 percent in Estonia compared to the average for Europe, which is 10.5 percent.

5.3 percent of health care workers in Estonia are infected and most of the cases are in the West-Estonian region or Saaremaa. The figures in Italy and Spain are much higher at 10 and 20 percent.

However, Estonia's case and death rate is higher than in Latvia, which has a larger population than Estonia. Latvia has 860 positive cases and 15 deaths, whereas Estonia's is 1689 cases and 52 deaths.

Mari-Anne Härma explained this is due to the fact that Latvians did not have "their own Saaremaa".


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Editor: Helen Wright

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