Doctor: 50 per 100,000 people COVID-19 threshold is right on the line

Arkadi Popov.
Arkadi Popov. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

Chief of emergency medicine at the North Estonia Medical Center (PERH) Arkadi Popov said in response to a European Commission proposal to establish a common case rate threshold of 50 per 100,000 inhabitants that the ceiling should instead be tied to the hospitalization rate in that country, as well as the capacity of its medical system, instead.

Estonia has established an exemption for travel for Finland, Latvia and Lithuania, raising the case rate threshold to 25 per 100,000 inhabitants for these neighboring countries and allowing their travelers to enter Estonia without quarantine. Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said the indicator could be established for all of Europe at some point.

Reinsalu said: "It is conceivable that a common model could be implemented across Europe. I think Estonia welcomes us having similar regulations all over Europe, the question is what those regulations are. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will assemble the stances of experts and ministries, and the government will discuss Estonia's position. The European Council will also discuss it on September 22."

MEP Urmas Paet (Reform) said experts' opinions should have been listened to a long time ago. "The European health board, including Estonian experts, has said the level, after which people would be quarantined, should be 50 per 100,000 inhabitants for Europe. Estonia still sets it at 16 for most countries, but the country itself is already at 24 [per 100,000]."

Arkadi Popov, who led the Health Board's (Terviseamet) emergency medicine department during the emergency situation, emphasized that the establishment of a case rate threshold must take into account how many patients are receiving treatment in hospital.

Popov said: "Knowing that there is a c. 20 percent hospitaliation rate for the virus; we had that data in spring and that is the average data in the world. Today we can see that the hospitalization rate is far lower than that in the spring. Today, it varies at around 5 percent. So truly, this gives us hope and, at the same time, could provide hope that the numbers we spoke about in summer-spring could be amended and corrected."

Popov added that a rate of 50 patients per 100,000 inhabitants is right on the line, considering the capacity of the Estonian healthcare system.

The PERH emergency medicine chief noted: "It is right on line of ordinary work for our healthcaresystem. We have some 130 beds for infection treatment and 50 per 100,000 gives us an estimated 130 patients who need treatment in hospital. It is conceivable but we must get there step-by-step and monitor the situation."


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste, Andrew Whyte

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