Health Board: More small coronavirus outbreaks likely this summer

Acting Director General of the Health Board Mari-Anne Härma.
Acting Director General of the Health Board Mari-Anne Härma. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Small outbreaks of coronavirus are likely to occur in family groups or social circles in the coming months, said Mari-Anne Härma acting director general of the Health Board (Terviseamet) on Wednesday.

Härma said at a press conference it is understandable there will be public concern if the number of infections rises sharply, as happened last week. But the 16 infections recorded last week after a party does not mean the disease has started to spread again. 

"There will probably be more such small outbreaks during the summer," she said.

The majority of cases of infection recorded in the last two weeks were related to two outbreaks, one in Ida-Viru County and the other in Tallinn. More than half of those diagnosed with a new case became infected at the home of a family member.

Four infections were introduced from Russia, Sweden and Kazakhstan, said Härma. "Ships coming from Sweden are under some degree of higher attention," she noted.

Härma said fewer tests have been performed in the last few weeks but the number of tests is still higher than recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Health Board said the overall morbidity of coronavirus in Estonia is low and it is not recommended that healthy people wear masks. 

While there were reports last week that the coronavirus could also spread through the air, Härma said WHO has not changed its message and they believe the main route of transmission of the coronavirus is droplet infection. 

Therefore, the main emphasis should still be on hand hygiene, but if you are in a country with a high prevalence of the disease crowded rooms with poor ventilation should be avoided, Härma said.

Shes said it is worth avoiding crowded gatherings in Estonia as well, but since the epidemiological situation in Estonia is currently very good the summer can also be enjoyed within the limits of reason. 

Discussing the stock level of personal protective equipment (PPE), Härma said some preparations have been made but the situation could also be better.

"Preparations for this were started early in order to be ready for the autumn. I am convinced that hard work has been done for this. There is readiness for autumn, it can definitely be improved. Should a second wave hit, we can [currently] resist it."

Mait Altmets, head of the North Estonia Medical Center's Infection Control Service, also spoke at the press conference and drew attention to the need to procure PPE. 

"It is a great wish for hospitals to have enough personal protective equipment. If there is not enough we cannot talk about safe treatment and a safe working environment. If the virus should raise its head in the autumn, we must be ready for it," he warned.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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