Prime minister one of first to take advantage of Saaremaa travel reopening

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) is heading to Saaremaa Friday, as travel restrictions are lifted. Source: Government Office

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas is traveling to Saaremaa on Friday to meet with rural municipality leaders, Kuressaare Hospital and members of the crisis committee. Saaremaa has been the worst-hit region of Estonia in the coronavirus pandemic so far, but as the rate of infection has recently subsided, travel restrictions in place since March which meant only full-time island residents could travel there have been lifted.

"Visiting Saaremaa and meeting the people there is extremely important to me," Ratas said, according to ERR's online news in Estonian.

"It is an area whose inhabitants have felt the outbreak of the virus and its consequences most keenly. I hope to discuss at today's meetings the types of assistance the state can provide to cope with the damage caused by the crisis, as well as how to ease the existing restrictions to ensure compliance with the rules protecting the health and life of the islanders," he added.

Ratas starts his visit on the adjacent island of Muhu, subject to the same restrictions as Saaremaa, and will meeet with council chair Ain Saaremäel. The prime minister then travels to Saaremaa itself, and will meeting with Kuressaare Hospital personnel, as well as business leaders, politicians and outgoing Saaremaa mayor Madis Kallas.

As of Thursday, a total of 545 people had been diagnosed with the coronavirus on Saaremaa, by far the highest per-capita rate nationwide and accounting for nearly a third of all cases (Saaremaa's population is a little over 30,000). Figures for how many have recovered to date have not been released for Saaremaa; the Health Board reported Thursday evening that just over 700 have recovered across the country, with the status of close to another 500 sufferers currently unknown.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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