Health board regional chief: One-off COVID-19 cases the most concerning

Ester Öpik on Friday's edition of
Ester Öpik on Friday's edition of "Aktuaalne kaamera". Source: ERR

The recent uptick in coronavirus numbers, including double figures at a single company in Tallinn, have come as no surprise, Ester Öpik, head of the Health Board's (Terviseamet) northern regional department, told ETV current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" Friday night. More worrying were individual cases whose cause could not be pinned on the recent lifting of restrictions.

On being asked whether Lunden Food OÜ, the company named in the media as having experienced over a dozen cases of COVID-19 as detected since Thursday, presented a danger to the public, given its products are for sale in stores, Öpik said that the Health Board had received confirmation from the Veterinary and Food Board (VTA)  that coronavirus has not been found to pass via foodstuffs.

At the same time, since the virus spreads from person to person, the firm is likely to have more cases within its workforce than have so far been reported, she said.

"Aktuaalne kaamera" host Margus Saar asked Öpik if, with the border with Finland opened fully on June 1, new vectors for the virus had emerged, given that Finland has a higher COVID-19 rate than Estonia (though below the government benchmark 15 per 100,000 inhabitants), as does Sweden (which is above the threshold and whose residents must self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Estonia).

Öpik reported that it was expected, and had been observed for instance in Finland and Sweden, that easing travel and other restrictions would lead to an uptick in coronavirus cases. These new spreads are often within family groups as those who have been working, for instance in Finland, have now been reunited with their families in Estonia after the restrictions were lifted, only to carry the virus to them.

At the same time, this phenomenon narrows the focus when getting to the bottm of localized outbreaks, she said.

"The situation is that we can effectively find out as soon as a person has given a positive sample who he/she may have been in contact with. A circle of relatives is then drawn. We then look after close family members by asking them to stay at home and monitor their own health."

Öpik also said that the recent cases of double figure COVID new numbers within a single day – after the first day of zero new infections was reported on Tuesday – would naturally cause anxiety, but again could be more effectely limited than before.

The greater worry was individual cases where the sufferer is not sure where they picked up the illness, for instance from any of the public places, including public transport, they might have visited in the preceding days.

"If there end up being a lot of such cases, this is where we can delve once again with extraordinary precision and see what stands out. We are already going deep into group [infections] today, but these individual cases are insidious," she said.

Öpik also said that it was unfortunate that even now, nearly three months after the government declared the emergency situation in response to the pandemic (which ended on May 17-ed.), members of the public, especially those who had contracted the virus, ignored regulations such as hand-washing and the 2+2 rule, knowingly or unknowingly, and endangered the heatly of others, or entire workforce teams, family members and acquintances.

Every single person sick with the virus was an alarm call, she said.

Öpik added that with warmer weather approaching, she was very supportive of outdoor activities, while following the regulations, as well as indoor ones where needed – again with the health and well-being of others foremost.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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