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President: My quarantine experience demonstrates importance of mask-wearing

President Kersti Kaljulaid using, and giving out, a face-mask during here recent Viljandi County trip.
President Kersti Kaljulaid using, and giving out, a face-mask during here recent Viljandi County trip. Source: Office of the President of the Republic of Estonia.

President Kersti Kaljulaid has given an update on her quarantine situation, using the opportunity to encourage the use of face-masks in general and follow other measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

The president has had to self-quarantine after coming into close contact late last week with an individual in Viljandi County who later tested positive for coronavirus.

The president had been on an official visit to the region, meeting with local business and community leaders, and the announcement that she, along with several of her staff also on the trip, was quarantining was made yesterday, Tuesday.

Both the president and her staff tested negative for the virus on Tuesday, Kaljulaid told ERR radio show "Vikerhommik", adding that all will be in quarantine until Sunday, when 10 days will have elapsed since the contact took place.

The president stressed that all in the delegation were using masks and following other precautions, such as setting up lunch table arrangements to ensure social distancing.

"If all goes well, then I will be very glad to say that the precautions worked in Viljandi too so my recommendation to everyone is to wear, please, masks. This can be really helpful," the president said, noting that she had become accustomed to the practise.

Recent large, high-level events hosted by the president include last month's Three Seas Virtual Summit, which as its name suggests was largely conducted online but also included high-level, in-person visits including from the presidents of Bulgaria and Poland.

Held at the Kultuurikatel in Tallinn, the event was a strictly masks-only affair at all times and in all parts of the building.

The president told "Vikerhommik" that she hoped a recommendation was sufficient for the public to follow suit, meaning an obligation would not be needed.

"People may come to realize that wearing a mask is beneficial in any case. It certainly doesn't increase the spread of the virus," she said, following the advice of, for example, medical professionals who have to wear personal protective equipment in infectious hospitals around the world in any case.

"I have been seriously surprised to find that even when you go to the theater and the cinema, the cost-benefit ratio of donning a mask is extremely high. You don't have to talk [in that situation], you are sitting in a dark room, no one can see if this particular mask suits you or not. There is no need to eat or drink either. In fact, it is such a simple precaution. I urge all people to be so kind and to wear these masks," she went on.

The president also said she did not understand mask critics, particularly given the alternative option to it and also social distancing might be a more serious lock down.

"We're doing everything we can to retain jobs, because that's what we live for, so that we can do work, so that the economy functions. Without it, everything is much worse. Now, if we ponder for a moment, is this 'disguise' – compared with so many of us no longer having jobs, and with incomes falling – really that bad. Let's think about what that cost, and effort is, and what that risk is."

The president also noted Estonia's healthcare system – which Health Board chief emergency doctor Arkadi Popov recently said would face meltdown if COVID-19 numbers got too high – is the responsibility of the whole population, and whose preservation mask-wearing would contribute to.

The president and her staff will likely have to take a second test in the coming days, to ensure a negative COVID-19 status.

Being in quarantine necessiated postponing to next week a National Defense Council meeting prompted by remarks made by former interior minister Mart Helme and current Finance Minister Martin Helme on the recent U.S. presidential elections and the winning candidate. Mart Helme, who as interior minister would have been due at the meeting, resigned on Monday.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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