Prime minister: COVID-19 situation worse than in July

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas speaking at an earlier government press conference.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas speaking at an earlier government press conference. Source: ERR

Prime Minister Juri Ratas (Center) says that the coronavirus infection rate in Estonia is on the rise again, meaning assumptions about the situation in July are no longer valid going forward.

"The morbidity rate is rising and we are no longer in the scenario that was the case in July, the scenario is different. We must be guided by the fact that the rules which are currently being declared must be complied with, be it the quarantine requirement or the hygiene rule. And if these rules are not followed, the morbidity rate will further increase," Ratas said, speaking at the regular Thursday government press conference.

Ratas added that, according to the Health Board (Terviseamet), it is nevertheless possible to maintain contact with both the sick and those in close contact with the sick, who number approximately 300 at present.

"If we follow the rules that are in place today, we have a great opportunity to control the spread of the virus; but if not, it will be a big problem for society," Ratas said.

A recent surge in daily infection figures has centered on Tartu, where a carrier who visited a nightclub in that city on July 18 passed on the virus to close to 30 people so far. Confirmed cases have been reported in four more bars, clubs and restaurants in the city in the past couple of days.

A cargo vessel which arrived from Finland in the port city of Sillamäe was quarantined in-port after 11 COVID-19 cases were found among crew members. The ship has since returned to Finland.

Social affairs minister: Local crackdowns on COVID-19 outbreaks key

Speaking at the same press conference, Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) said the state is prepared to step up monitoring of compliance with coronavirus rules, adding that it is too early to implement nationwide restrictions.

"Unfortunately, the disease is on the rise in Estonia and the problem is not restrictions or measures, but compliance with same. If the state has established a self-isolation rule for those arriving from abroad, then it is not a recommendation, but an obligation," Kiik said.

Arrivals from countries with a reported COVID-19 incidence of over 16 per 100,000 inhabitants in the preceding 14 days must self-quarantine in Estonia for two weeks. Non-compliance can carry a fine with it of up to €9,600.

Kiik stressed that if it becomes clear that there are still problems with compliance, monitoring would need to be stepped up. "The plea to all people is that if we do not want the kind of restrictions we had in the spring, we must take personal responsibility and follow the rules," he said.

More than half of those infected in recent weeks are from Tartu and Tartu County, Kiik said, which making it a regional outbreak.

"There are similar situations in the Baltic States and Finland, where most areas are virus-free," he said.

Kiik noted that on-the-spot crackdowns on a localized basis were needed whenever and wherever a coronavirus outbreak was found.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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