Health Board: Mass COVID-19 testing not needed at present ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Coronavirus test kit.
Coronavirus test kit. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Estonia does not need to follow the example of Slovakia and mass-test the population for coronavirus, the Health Board (Tervisamet) says, amid rising rates in Europe. However, attention should be paid to curbing the virus' spread in Tallinn and the rest of Harju County, the board says.

While Slovakia is set to test everyone above the age of 10, over the next two weeks, this would not be necessary in Estonia, deputy Health Board head Mari-Anne Härma told ERR Monday, partly because Slovakia is using a different, quicker testing method.

Härma said that Estonia's polymerise chain reaction (PCR) method of testing is more time-consuming, though the antigen-type tests Slovakia is using can give both false-negative and false-positive results, though standards are improving, she said.

Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center) says that if these tests become more reliable, Estonia will consider using them.

The EU is in the process of conducting a tender for procuring rapid antigen tests.

Tallinn and Harju County most cause for concern

Härma said that at present, Tallinn and Harju County give the most cause for concern, as rates continue to rise.

"This growth is currently ongoing. For use, we define this (i.e. growth – ed.) primarily through greater numbers from close contact and their rapid spread. We can see here a permanent spread."

"Right now we are seeing both in Tallinn and Harju County that should the close contact numbers rise in the coming weeks, things will become harder to control. If we do not establish who close contacts are within a couple of days, then the risk will grow that they (i.e. infected people – ed.) will get more sick and infect more people around them. We are focusing today on a plan how to quickly get in touch with close contacts and get support involved in Tallinn," she said.

Tanel Kiik said that the rise in infections over the past week has been worrying and continues to be serious, though he certainly could not say that the board will not be able to keep on top of close contacts.

"For our part, we will for sure aid the Health Board with extra resources, and with more people where needed."

Kiik: I don't support mask-wearing as a general rule

Tanel Kiik also told ERR Monday that he does not see an obligation for mass mask-wearing as necessary, though it may be in certain, crowded situation such as public transport and events.

This would be down to a question of definition, particularly when it came to workplaces, he said.

"Indoor space is such a broad concept. I think a rule for wearing a mask in every space, in every work team, in every situation may not be necessary, but there may be cases where it definitely needs doing more strongly," Kiik said.

"Indoor space is such a broad concept. I think a rule for wearing a mask in every space, in every work team, in every situation may not be necessary, but there may be cases where it definitely needs doing more strongly," Kiik said.

"This would be via an obligation or an urgent recommendation or government guideline from its own state agencies. The public sector, which as we know is a very large employer, will already require the joint decision at cabinet-level," he went on.

Other areas include teachers' staff rooms, which can be vectors for infection even as the virus has not spread much within children, and other communal areas in workplaces, he said.

Representatives of the social affairs ministry and the Health Board are to meet Tuesday to discuss the spread of COVID-19 in Tallinn and how it can be limited, particularly in the workplace, with the establishment of a rule for wearing masks – supported by Health Board chief Üllar Lanno – not entirely off the cards, Kiik said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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