Health Board: Situation in Tallinn most worrying

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Tallinn's Telliskivi Creative CIty.
Tallinn's Telliskivi Creative CIty. Source: Linda Liis Eek

The Health Board is worried about the coronavirus situation in Tallinn where the number of people who do not know where they got the virus is growing and where close contacts are reluctant to remain in isolation. Elderly people are being advised to stay away from crowded places.

The COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 people has grown to 15.7 in Estonia, with the Health Board most concerned about the situation in the capital. While unidentified infections make up around 10 percent elsewhere in Estonia, they are more common in Tallinn.

For example, there are presently no cases where people do not know where they caught the virus in Ida-Viru County.

In Tallinn, most new infections are related to people between the ages of 20 and 29 who have a lot of close contacts. The average number of close contacts per infected person is currently 10 and the number of cases are expected to grow rapidly in Tallinn, according to the Health Board.

"The danger for new outbreaks is greater in Tallinn because there might be more people who have had close contact with COVID-19 patients than we know of," acting head of the board Mari-Anne Härma said.

There are currently three large outbreaks in Tallinn - eight cases originate from a nightclub in Ülemiste City, five from a private sauna party and eight from the Nõmme Kalju football club.

A few cases have also been registered as originating from last week's Tallinn Music Week as well as from restaurants. Over 500 people, of whom 102 have fallen ill, are being actively monitored by the northern regional department of the Health Board on Thursday.

In Ida-Viru County the outbreaks are linked to one another and the Health Board has identified nearly all close contacts of virus carriers in the county. This means that the outbreaks in Ida-Viru County have been contained, which cannot be said about the outbreaks in Tallinn. 

Isolation orders ignored

The number of young people who are not taking the virus seriously is growing, according to Härma.

"People [in Tallinn] need to be reminded to observe isolation rules more often," Härma said.

The Health Board has also had to involve the police in its virus prevention efforts. "When a person is not answering their phone, the police has had to find them," Härma said.

"If we're trying to aim, as a society, towards allowing as many people as possible to participate in events and move freely, it can only be achieved through close contacts self-isolating and adhering to [their self-isolation requirement]," Harma said.

"Elderly at-risk groups, in particular, are advised to avoid crowded places where the risk of contracting the disease is currently higher, and think their movement through," she noted.

Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center Party) said if the situation in Tallinn cannot be brought under control, new restrictions on the sales of alcohol need to be discussed. 

"The self-isolation of those arriving from abroad will be reviewed as there have been situations where someone arriving from a state with high infection rate immediately attends a party of visits someone," Kiik said, adding that the recommendation to wear a mask will likewise be reviewed. The recommendation becoming an obligation at some point has not been ruled out, either, he said.

Kiik urged people to download the HOIA app to help close contacts to be traced. The minister also requested that event organizers take the situation seriously and take into account that any event can become a new outbreak.

Harma noted that as many people downloading the app would also be of help to epidemiologists.

HOIA can be downloaded for free from the App Store and the Google Play Store.

 Ministers urge people to download HOIA app

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) and Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) called on everyone to download the HOIA app at Thursday's government press conference.

Helme said he is "paranoid on a half-time basis - full time on some days -- and does not want Big Brother in his pocket;" however, the minister said that he immediately downloaded the app.

Helme said HOIA is a very well thought out, functional, cost-effective and anonymous way for combating the virus. The minister noted that it was "made for the Estonian state virtually free of charge," and urged everyone to download it. 

Ratas and Reinsalu likewise called on all people of Estonia to use the app. 

However, the foreign minister added that he has not been successful at downloading the app as the security programs on his mobile phone prevent him from doing so.

According to data by the Health and Welfare Information Systems Center, as of Thursday, HOIA had been downloaded close to 85,000 times and 13 people had marked themselves as ill on the app.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski, Helen Wright

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