People living in Ida-Viru County are afraid to admit that they are ill and hide their coronavirus symptoms because they are afraid for their jobs, Dr. Arkadi Popov, head of the ambulance center of the North Estonian Medical Center, said on Wednesday.
Popov said coronavirus is not being well detected in the eastern region as a result.
He encouraged people to think that if they go to work sick, the infection will spread in the workplace which will result in the whole workplace being quarantined, meaning the whole company will need to be shut down.
"It is better if everyone understands this in the same way. It is important to stay at home when sick, not to go to work," Popov emphasized.
Ida-Viru County is currently the region with the highest number of infected persons in Estonia. The 14-day average infection rate per 100,000 inhabitants is now 100.56 and there are estimated to be 137 active cases. The 14-day average for Estonia is currently 33.71.
The spread of the infection has increased among people over the age of 50, who are more likely to be hospitalized. Residents of Ida-Viru County are being strongly advised to wear masks indoors, on public transport and in other situations where it is not possible to avoid close contacts.
Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) said while there is no universal obligation to wear a mask, but it is strongly recommended because if the virus keeps spreading new restrictions will have to be introduced.
Speaking about making masks mandatory across the country, he said: "We can issue specific instructions to the authorities, but when imposing a national mask obligation, it is necessary to consider whether it is legally and economically possible and medically justified."
What is the situation in the eastern region?
Cases in Ida-Viru County first started rising after an outbreak in a bar in Jõhvi and Eesti Energia's Estonia mine in mid-August. The two outbreaks were connected as some workers from the mine had visited the bar. The coronavirus then spread to a second mine and now it is spreading in workplaces and schools in Jõhvi, Sillamäe and Kohtla-Järve. A late night alcohol sales ban has been in place for a month.
Ida-Viru's 14-day average is 100.56 per 100,000. Tallinn's is 32.77 per 100,000.
On Wednesday, the Health Board said there are five active outbreaks in Eastern Estonia. The Eastern Regional Department is currently monitoring 816 people, of whom 149 have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
There are estimated to be 143 active cases in the country, for comparison, Harju County - which includes Tallinn - has 222 active cases.
In total, 444 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in Ida-Viru County since the coronavirus pandemic started in February. This means the county has the third highest number of total cases in Estonia.
The second highest is Saare County which has 560 cases after a severe outbreak in March. It is now rare to get new cases in Saare County, whereas the number of new cases in Ida-Viru is growing every day, making it a possibility the county could end up with the second highest rate in Estonia in several weeks time.
To see more data about Ida-Viru and the rest of Estonia visit koroonakaart.
Editor: Helen Wright