From June 1, care homes in Estonia will be able to open for visits, though it is up to the head of each home whether and with what restrictions this will take place, in conjunction with the Health Board. Care homes had been closed to visitors throughout much of the pandemic, and residents have been forbidden from leaving the premises since April 4.
One option is to disperse visitors either by time or by separating them into different rooms or partitions, Triin Raag, head of the social affairs ministry's welfare department.
The Health Board (Terviseamet) will continue to have the right to quarantine care homes in the event of a coronavirus outbreak, even though the emergency situation expired last Sunday, Raag noted.
"In the past, nursing homes have also been closed during flu outbreaks, for example," Raag told ETV morning show "Terevisioon" on Thursday.
Several outbreaks have occurred in care homes during the pandemic, most recently at the Südamekodu home in the western Estonian town of Lihula, where 13 residents, the care home's director and an employee have all tested positive for the virus through May.
Triin Raag noted that at the dawn of the pandemic in Estonia (early March-ed.) the worst was feared for care homes, due to the advanced age of most residents and the incidence of chronic illnesses among the demographic.
However, only around a tenth of care homes experienced any cases of COVID-19 to date.
At the same time, total prevention was not realistic, Raag continued.
"Nursing homes are a part of society and if the virus is on the move, its spread is inevitable," she said.
It is also important that care home staff do not get stigmatized, something which has happened in particular in smaller places, where there have been reports of employees being refused entry to stores, Raag said.
Editor: Andrew Whyte