Additional support services will be sent to Ida-Viru County, which has the highest rate of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country, the Health Board (Terviseamet) said on Wednesday.
Narva Hospital is currently in the most serious situation and additional help will be sent there by the end of the week, head of the Health Board's Crisis Support Center Urmas Sule told ERR. On Wednesday, experts from the Health Board will travel to Narva to review the situation.
Sule said the most important thing is to look at the cooperation between the hospital and other crisis units. Health care students are being recruited to help hospitals cope with the crisis and the Unemployment Insurance Fund will help to find additional workers for care institutions.
Speaking about the rate of new infections announced on Wednesday - 524 a new record - Sule said the results of one day should not be viewed like sports competitions. When restrictions are applied, the numbers should be viewed over the course of the week.
"We are on the rise and the rise is regional. The biggest increase so far has been in Ida-Viru County, but also elsewhere in Estonia the morbidity is increasing, for example in Tartu," said Sule, adding hospitals are already struggling.
He said it has been agreed by December 10 that all hospitals will move to the next level of readiness which means adjustments will have to be made to scheduled treatment. "Should morbidity increase further, the transition to the next levels should be discussed and then it is likely to affect emergency care," Sule warned.
He said that, compared to the emergency situation in the spring, people have lost their fear of the virus.
"It seems to many that the disease will pass without touching them. It can be seen that compared to the spring-summer period, people are less committed, i.e. wear masks less and do not socially distance. We are more relaxed and this means that the disease is spreading faster. This means that stronger measures may be needed," he said.
14-day Infection rate above 800 per 100,000 in Ida-Viru County
Both state and health care leaders have said the most critical situation with the coronavirus is currently in Ida-Viru County.
The infection rate per 100,000 inhabitants of Ida-Viru County in the last two weeks was 808.9 as of Wednesday morning. The infection rate in Estonia as a whole is 355.1, less than half. Tallinn's rate is 403.6 and Tartu County's 296.8.
The former head of the Health Board's crisis team Arkadi Popov has previously said the infection rate has risen in Ida-Viru County as people do not go to the doctor and continue working as they fear losing their jobs.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said on Vikerraadio on Tuesday that crisis headquarters would be established in Ida-Viru County, similar to when the island of Saaremaa was in crisis in the spring.
On Wednesday, the Health Board said 117 new cases of coronavirus were diagnosed in the county in the last 24 hours.
Health Board monitoring over 5,600 people
The Health Board's eastern regional department is monitoring over 5,600 people, of whom 1,105 have fallen ill and there are 23 active outbreaks in the region.
The largest of those outbreaks is at Viru Prison outbreak which involves 250 individuals. There are also four school outbreaks, including three in Kohtla-Järve and one in Jõhvi. There are two kindergarten outbreaks, involving one in Narva and another in Kohtla-Järve.
The total number of workplace outbreaks amounts to ten, including two in Sillamäe, five in Narva, one in Jõhvi, and one that is being referred to as the Lääne-Viru County outbreak.
The Narva ice-hockey outbreak involves seventy-six individuals. There are two outbreaks at healthcare institutions, including one in Kohtla-Järve and one in Narva. Sillamäe also has a hobby group outbreak, and there are two further outbreaks: within a circle of acquaintances in Toila Parish and within a family in Lüganuse Parish.
Editor: Helen Wright