Ratas: Trust between Health Board and government needs to be restored

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center).
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said on Thursday trust between the Health Board (Terviseamet) and the government needs to be restored and a new leader should be found as soon as possible.

Speaking at the government's press conference on Thursday, Ratas said he personally told Merike Jürilo and the entire Health Board (Terviseamet) that a lot of good work has been done to control the coronavirus in difficult circumstances, but trust between the Health Board and the government also needs to be restored. 

"This is important, especially in a situation where we cannot say that the coronavirus has ended in Estonia or in the world," said Ratas at the government's press conference. 

Ratas said the disagreement with Jürilo over the introduction of rapid tests was not "the straw that broke the camels' back". 

"A new person must be found as soon as possible. They must be committed to this work," Ratas added. 

Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said there have been different conceptual understandings between the Health Board and the government about what should be the political decisions in controlling the spread of the coronavirus. 

"As a matter of fact, all the important decisions that this government made, were thought through a very serious controversy. And the director of the Health Board had a different approach to very important issues," said Reinsalu. 

For example, Reinsalu said, Jürilo had a different approach to the spread of the coronavirus in the initial phase, the establishment of a state of emergency, and the testing of people. 

Reinsalu said the government has never discussed the dismissal of the director of the Health Board. 

The head of the Health Board Merike Jürilo announced on Thursday she would resign because she was offended by the comments made by the Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) to newspaper Postimees regarding the government's lack of trust in her. 

Jürilo faced criticism since the pandemic began in early March, including for giving the green light to a visiting volleyball team from Northern Italy – at the time the hardest hit region globally so far as COVID-19 went – to Saaremaa. The island ended up experiencing by far the highest infection rate of coronavirus at the peak of the pandemic, with its central hospital in Kuressaare under severe strain.

Kiik had publicly been among Jürilo's strongest supporters until yesterday; Ratas had earlier hit out at the Health Board over its handling of the crisis, though he declined to answer questions about whether Jürilo should step down.


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Editor: Katriin Eikin Sein

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