Justice chancellor: Scientific council analyses should be public
Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise told ERR that some doctors and scientists hold back on expressing their opinion against coronavirus restrictions publicly as a wave of accusations is usually to follow. Madise added that the public should be able to see the analyses conducted by the COVID-19 scientific council, based on which the government decides restrictions.
The government will discuss new restrictions on Thursday. As far as we know, restricting or closing entertainment venues, cinemas, theaters and concert halls is on the table. In addition, spas, gyms, childrens' and adult hobby activites could also go. The culture minister (Tõnis Lukas - ed.) said the Health Board and the scientific council has justified restrictions by saying that peoples' movement and socialization. Is it allowed for restrictions to be made so people would just stay home?
If we look at serious scientific articles, then the most efficient way of forcing infection rates down is avoiding contact between different households.
I hope that they do not go the route of closing Estonian society completely. We do not know yet what ends up on the government's overall agenda. I have not seen the draft law yet (as of Wednesday afternoon - ed.). Noone has brought it to me yet.
I hope that all these individual restrictions are assessed independently. A recent article in Nature magazine said that the most efficient way is to lock people in their homes and force them to not go to work physically. Human rights and the Constitution aside, this could have serious negative side effects. So a complex of different restrictions must be chosen. This is why I hope restrictions are thought through.
For example, if we are talking about second grade hobby groups, if children from the same class go to robotics or exercise together, that does not increase risk of infection.
I sincerely hope that these topics are handled one by one in Estonia and only the necessary restrictions will be implemented. The fact is that our doctors and nurses are overloaded. We cannot make conclusions based on patients in hospital currently, but conclusions can be done from how many are infected and in which age groups. That points to how many people could end up in hospital in the next week.
It is important to also offer treatment to those who need help after a stroke, heart attack or other accidents. The continuation of scheduled treatments is important.
The situation is complicated and restrictions are possible. I know the scientific council has studies that show the pros and cons of different measures. And I hope that is what decisions are based on.
Should the analyses and proposals done by the government's scientific council go public? The public should have an overview of how decisions are based off the analyses?
I personally would like it if the positions if different members of the council would be public. It has value because they are trying to show a consensus position, even if that does not exist. Scientists might not agree on all topics.
I would certainly be prepared to receive this information. I hope that the Estonian people would also be ready.
I can make that proposal if I am able to meet with the council. The articles that decisions are based on, those I can certainly share. As a long-time professor, I always read through them first to figure out what they say.
I can understand the scientific council members. We do not know for certain what awaits ahead. Spring saw a similar situation and now we can look back and say how things should have been done. Council members will be hit with a wave of accusations in the future?
I would like to make the call know, when this ultramarathon is still in its beginning stage. Once this crisis ends, there is no need to find a guilty party. Our most important goal is that Estonian society does not end up fighting.
Scientists, doctors and officials should be able to and they should dare publish their neutral opinions, without them being attacked on the basis of half-truths, fear and emotions. It is bad that some doctors and scientists refrain from saying what they think and more narrow views tend to stay on top. And decisions are not as good as we need. Anyway, it is very important for decision-makers and their advisers that they are not blamed.
These accusations would likely not be right or fair, because everyone is making decisions to their knowledge. As it is with epidemics, we cannot go without any victims and things must be done to minimize the damages, victims and tragedies.
Has the mask-wearing directive, in place from November 23, brought you a large amount of letters or have people taken to the decision calmly?
We have recommended people who feel that the directive is excessive turn to an administrative court. People have calmed on the topic currently.
Has anyone turned to administrative court?
I do not know.
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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste