Health Board official: We are working on Tartu not becoming Saaremaa

Health Board logo.
Health Board logo. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Tiia Luht, head of the Health Board's Southern Regional Department, said a crisis committee will meet in Tartu on Friday to discuss possible measures to alleviate the recent outbreak of COVID-19 in the city to avoid it becoming an epicenter of the disease similar to Saaremaa in March.

Luht said on Vikerraadio's news show "Uudis+" that 19 cases of COVID-19 have already been confirmed in relation to a person visiting Vabank nightclub while displaying symptoms of the coronavirus. Of those 19 new cases, 15 were discovered in Tartu County and four in Harju County.

There are still more than 50 close contacts to the infected person and the Health Board is still specifying the status of those people.

Luht answered a question if there are similarities between the possible outbreak in Tartu with that of Saaremaa's in March, after a volleyball match devastated the island, causing the government to isolate it from mainland Estonia.

Saaremaa VK reached the quarterfinals of CEV Challenge Cup in the 2019/2020 season, where they faced Milano Powervolley. Due to the spread of the coronavirus in northern Italy, both matches went ahead on Saaremaa on March 5, a controversial decision which ended in the island becoming by far the hardest hit region of the country during the pandemic. Saaremaa VK's club president, and then-mayor Madis Kallas were among those to contract COVID-19.

By March 27, cases diagnosed in Saaremaa (218) overtook Harju County (208).

She said: "For it not to happen, we are really working on it intensively. A crisis committee will meet in Tartu on Friday night, we will discuss those questions, figure out measures."

There are currently 21 active cases of COVID-19 in Tartu. "It shows that the rate of infection is too large in Tartu and something needs to be done. Is it banning public events and concerts? We will figure out the sufficient measures to alleviate the disease."

Luht emphasized that the spread can only be stopped if everyone pays attention to their behavior. "That's for everybody to decide on. Maybe a bit extreme, but it is a matter of life and death. Maybe not for the infected person wandering around in public but it is a large problem for an older person in the store with them."

She admonished that if meeting up with someone is absolutely necessary, it should be done outdoors or in another safe, open and well ventilated space. Distance should still be kept.

Luht added: "Most importantly: if you do not feel well, stay home. It does not matter if you have a cough or cold, stay home, get better. Do not go out when you are sick. If we stick to that, the disease can not spread."

She said the Health Board will assess each case separately in terms of fines and punishments.

Luht explained: "We will assess each case separately and if we consider something malicious behavior, it will be followed by punishment. But we can not say that absolutely everyone who has drifted from our directives will be punished. We will assess and discuss whether the actions brought circumstances. Our decision and stance will be based on that."

The Health Board has recommended family physicians send people to coronavirus testing even at the slightest symptoms.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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