Politicians wearing coronavirus blinders should learn to listen to experts

Indrek Kiisler.
Indrek Kiisler. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart does not listen to health experts as a politician's heart rate soars every time the opportunity to pick up emotional votes presents itself. At the same time, some members of the ruling coalition are visibly confused, Indrek Kiisler writes.

Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise said in an interview she gave ERR on Wednesday that this spring's panic and coronavirus measures constituted meeting the people's emptions half-way and cannot be held against politicians. No one knew what was coming and people's fears were understandable. That is how democracy works.

At the same time, Madise emphasized that this time around, decisions need to be made by experts and scientists and that we need to listen to them.

Just seven (!) COVID-19 patients are being treated in hospitals as of Wednesday.

That did not stop Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart declaring on Wednesday that he believes the second wave has landed and that schools need to be switched to partial distance learning.

The mayor is not phased by the Health Board's assurance that limiting contact study and forcing students to stay home is not sensible, while he should consider whether the capital should hold all major cultural events. Bars are open at night, there are parties and marathons in the city on the weekend.

How exactly are teachers an especially endangered category? Aren't people working cash registers or pharmacists helping those who already have a cough also in danger? Why not close down shops and pharmacies while we're at it?

Kõlvart does not listen to health experts because a politician cannot help feeling their heart rate soar when a chance to play on the emotions of voters presents itself. To act as a front-line worker, organize and ban things! Also, it is easier to listen to doe-eyed education workers who are simply afraid to adopt responsibility. Of course, it has to be admitted in Kõlvart's case that he has maintained this policy of bans and limitations since spring.

At the same time, some members of the governing coalition on Toompea Hill are visibly confused. Random coronavirus infection rates have painted Estonia and the rest of Europe into a corner. The politicians' own ceiling of 15 cases per 100,000 residents has come and gone, while the government remains stubbornly silent when asked whether the European Commission's proposed case rate of 50 would be a better fit for Estonia.

Why the silence?

The answer is simple: Politicians do not know how the people will react. Whether enough people are scared for it to make sense to jump on the bandwagon or whether to stick only to measures proposed by experts. If the Health Board says flight restrictions are of no use, they should be lifted, while if it says we should wear masks, that is what we need to do.

It is high time for coronavirus decisions to stop being based on likes and dislikes.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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