Government to discuss further COVID-19 restrictions on Thursday ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

A closed off public ping-pong table in Tallinn.
A closed off public ping-pong table in Tallinn. Source: ERR

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said Estonia's epidemiological situation has become more difficult and the government will begin discussing potential restrictions on Thursday.

Ratas said on Vikerraadio's "Stuudios on peaminister" on Wednesday: "Estonia's situation currently is rough and very serious. There has been a powerful increase of the infection over the last ten days. The main question is how we can deal with scheduled treatments. How the healthcare system and hospitals can manage."

The prime minister added that he spoke with Health Board (Terviseamet) emergency medical department head Dr. Arkadi Popov, who confirmed that the Estonian medicine system is fully operational currently.

"But if we take a scenario where COVID-19 rooms must be created in North Estonian Regional Hospital (PERH), then we must begin closing scheduled treatment places. And that is the spot where we must think of certain restrictions. We will actually begin weighing possible restrictions this week. We will discuss [on Thursday] and next week," Ratas noted.

As of Wednesday, there are 44 people hospitalized in Estonia due to the virus, two of these on controlled breathing. "If their rates being to increase, we must increase the number of intensive care places and take them from scheduled treatments. This does not mean the end of scheduled treatments, but a slow-down."

Ratas did not comment on which restrictions will be discussed, but brought one example: "2,000 people can gather outdoors and 750 indoors in Estonia. For example, in Norway, those numbers are 50 indoors and 600 outdoors. We must seriously think on these numbers, how many people should be allowed to participate in events."

He continued: "But also a recommendation on wearing masks in shopping centers, cinemas-theaters, we must look at those numbers. But do not conclude from this that we will close cinemas and theaters, but certain trust measures must be implemented."

The prime minister said that people should avoid contacts themselves, go to testing, wear masks and if the employer allows, work from distance. "In addition, I have a huge favor. Let us cancel Christmas and New Years parties this year. It (the coronavirus -ed.) is a disease of contacts and parties. Also, people should have the 'HOIA' app installed."

Ratas confirmed that establishing an emergency situation is not on the table in Estonia. "What will happen in a month, two or three, it is as if reading tea leaves. Today, the government wants to work toward not establishing an emergency situation and make do with certain restrictions. But what is also important is the peoples' discipline to make sure spread is not as wide-scale as in other countries."

He concluded by saying that since more and more people are asymptomatic, the only way to help against the virus is sufficient distancing.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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