Scientific council: New restrictions needed to help health care system

Irja Lutsar
Irja Lutsar Source: ERR / Siim Lõvi

The government's scientific advisory council has said stricter restrictions are needed to help ease the burden on the Estonian health care system and stop the coronavirus infection rate increasing.

"The scientific council is going to make a proposal to the government to tighten up restrictions," virology professor Irja Lutsar told ERR on Tuesday. "Hospital and medical crisis staff have informed us that the health care system is not coping with the increasing number of patients and so restrictions must be tightened up."

As of Tuesday morning, 209 people are being treated in hospital and 12 are in intensive care. It has been said previously by experts that Estonia only has bed capacity to treat 300-400 coronavirus patients. Estonia has already passed the spring peak when, during the peak of the emergency situation, 159 patients were being treated in hospital.

Lutsar said the coronavirus is not yet widespread in Estonia, the main outbreaks are in Northern and North-Eastern Estonia.

She said the council does not recommend closing schools. "It is possible to disperse children at schools, but it is possible, that extracurricular activities have to be given up for some time," she added.

"It's quite a mild virus for children but they are carrying it home. Parents also do not belong to a group with a high risk. But they are spreading the virus in their communities," the professor said.

The scientific council will propose establishing restrictions on catering facilities.

Regarding sports facilities, cinemas and theaters, Lutsar said more new restrictions need to be established.

In her opinion, a lockdown lasting a couple of weeks would help to calm the situation, but looking at other countries' experiences, when the restrictions are lifted the high number of cases returns.

 Kiik: Government will discuss additional restrictions on Thursday

Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The government and scientific advisory council will discuss additional coronavirus restrictions on Thursday which will relate to hobbies, public events and opening hours.

Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) told ERR: "The government has not yet made these decisions today, but has taken time to think about it. We will definitely return to the issues on Thursday."

The government is discussing limiting the number of visitors to theaters and cinemas or even temporary closures as well as further restricting opening hours of bars and restaurants.

Kiik said the government is looking at how new restrictions will impact on each sector of society and the economy. He emphasised they should only be seen as short term measures, potentially between two and four weeks.

"The goal is to lower the increase in infection, to stabilize it, and to assume that it will provide an opportunity to gradually start relief again before Christmas or in the post-Christmas period," Kiik said.

He said if the number of infected people does not significantly rise in the coming days, then the government will not introduce additional restrictions.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Helen Wright

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