Researcher: Opening border with Finland could lead to rise in COVID cases

Hand sanitizer station at the Port of Tallinn.
Hand sanitizer station at the Port of Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

An increase in coronavirus cases is likely to be inevitable when the border with Finland is reopened next week, Krista Fischer, a professor of mathematics at the University of Tartu, has said. Meanwhile, Estonia is following the forecasting model and infections are declining.

Fischer, a member of the government's scientific council, says the downward trend in infections has continued as expected. The intermediate jump in the number of hospital stays last week was related to the outbreak at the Tammiste care home in Pärnu County.

"We have told the government that while restrictions can be relaxed, the risk of infection is not so great that there should be a lot of serious restrictions," said Fischer. "Should we really give up distancing? - I don't dare say a definite yes. Mass gatherings are still associated with danger. It is not a good idea to gather a lot of strangers in a confined space."

An extensive study which randomly tested 2,000 people has only identified three positive cases.

At the same time, Fischer acknowledges that in many areas, a situation where it is safe to communicate the "old-fashioned" way may already be in place. However, before waiving all restrictions, she recommends waiting for the results of the next monitoring studies.

She said in the case of children ten or under, it is not necessarily justified to socially distance, to comply with the 2 + 2 requirement and to avoid groups of more than ten people.

Opening the border changes the game

According to the forecast, the number of infected people in Estonia will fall to zero during May, and the number of patients with coronavirus in hospitals should fall to zero by the beginning of July.

At the same time, Fischer said the opening of the border with Finland will probably delay these forecasts because the probability that the virus will spread from there is high.

"Our forecast is valid if everything stays the same, but it won't stay the same because the restrictions will be eased," says Fischer.

In the last two weeks, 1,400 people have been diagnosed in Finland. Researchers are closely monitoring whether and how quickly the virus will move across borders.

Statistics published by YLE News, Finland's national broadcaster, give an overview of the country's coronavirus outbreak:

  • 73 new cases confirmations today.
  • In total, 5,412 lab-confirmed infections as of Tuesday.
  • 246 deaths due to Covid-19 complications as of Tuesday, an increase of six since Monday.
  • More than 90% of the deceased had at least one chronic illness.
  • 195 people in hospital, 48 of them in intensive care.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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