Health Board: Coronavirus now at epidemic proportions

Üllar Lanno (left) and Arkadi Popov at Friday's press conference.
Üllar Lanno (left) and Arkadi Popov at Friday's press conference. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The coronavirus rate of spread has reached epidemic proportions, the Health Board (Terviseamet) announced Friday, and has breached localized outbreaks until recently surveyed by the board, itself overwhelmed by the rapidly rising daily numbers.

Üllar Lanno, the Health Board's director, said Friday that the board is under a high degree of stress and will not be able to issue daily, detailed information on regional outbreaks as it had been doing.

Tallinn and Harju County, the most populous region of the country, is hardest hit in the current wave.

Speaking at press conference Friday noon, Lanno said tthat: "While in the past it was clear infections were confined mainly to workplaces and close family contacts, we have reached a stage where more than 50 percent of individuals contracting the virus have no idea or recollection where they may have done so," Lanno said.

Social affairs minister: Rising figures to continue for long haul, large Christmas gatherings off

Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik added at the same press conference that the virual spread was now at an emergency stage and would be in the coming weeks.

"Today's numbers will not fall," Kiik said.

"At best, [they will do] in a few weeks, provided we make different choices and take different actions than we have been doing," he went on.

Employers should provide all options for staff to work remotely, the public should wear masks in public places, and Christmas and New Year gatherings should be confined to immediate, small family circles.

No further national restrictions have been unveiled, though Kiik said that this would be discussed at cabinet level Tuesday, with several different possible scenarios currently on the table.

Health Board chief Üllar Lanno concurred.

Lanno said: "We recommend not issuing permits for public events and to plan for their cancellation them; if it is sensible and necessary [for an event to go ahead] / --- /, then in that case [organizers] should approach the Health Board and we will find a common way to facilitate the event."

Harju County and Tallinn were particularly susceptible to coronavirus risk so far as crowded events are concerned, he added.

Health board chief doctor: Hospitals capacity to be boosted

Dr Arkadi Popov, head of the Health Board's emergency medical department, said that as cases rise and more people fall sick, hospitalizations will rise in line with this.

At present there are just over 100 places available for treating COVID-19 patients and 14 intensive care beds, in the whole country.

This would be boosted shortly, he said.

Popov said: "We will increase the treatment capacity of most critical care hospitals for COVID-19 patients from [Thursday] November 12. From that date, the number of beds will rise to 159."

This increased capacity would cover Ida-Viru Central and West-Tallinn Central hospitals in particular; Ida-Viru County is second to Harju County in case rate at present.

Fifty-two people are currently hospitalized due to the virus.

Lanno: Cancelling events even in less affected areas should be considered

Üllar Lanno added that even a planned rally on Hiiumaa – whose rate has in fact been rising lately and has recorded 21 cases at the time of writing – should be reviewed on whether it should go ahead; sports events in general should take place without spectators, or with social distancing regulations enforced.

He also noted that the Health Board's system was so overloaded that close contact phone calls on Thursday evening had had to be halted, with a text message alert substituting and informing the recipient they should expect a Health Board call the next day.

Dr Arkadi Popov summed up the situation by saying the future of the healthcare infrastructure in Estonia hinges on the behavior and actions of the populace.

"Everyone in Estonia, citizens and residents alike, should take this very seriously because everything depends on your actions and behavior, as to whether we are able to treat patients effectively," Popov said.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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