Government approves Ida-Viru restriction tightening as COVID-19 rates soar

Disinfectant station at a gym.
Disinfectant station at a gym. Source: Golden Club

The government has approved an order restricting recreational activities in Ida-Viru County, a region of Estonia consistently seeing among the highest rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks. The restrictions, which apply to indoor "hobby" education and activities, as well as sport, kick in on Saturday.

The professional and semi-professional sports activities are exempt from the restrictions, including youth sports, if the events come under the umbrella of competitive sporting association organizations.

For everyone else, only individual study and activities – for instance sport training or music lessons – are allowed, together with a teacher or other instructor.

The restrictions also do not extend to in-school physical education sessions and sports activities involving military or internal security personnel, it is reported.

Children 12 and over must also wear masks at such events, unless significant health or other factors preclude them from doing so, BNS reports.

Social distancing – the 2+2 rule – ventilation of facilities, available disinfectants and other hygiene requirements also remain in place.

The prime minister said Friday, however, that there were no plans in place to install a lock-down on the scale as that in place on Saaremaa during spring, which at its peak effectively made the island a closed zone even to Estonian citizens – as it had been during the Soviet era, albeit for purposes of military sensitivity rather than any virus.

More info is on the government's crisis site here.

Prime minister: Government mulling sending field hospital to Ida-Viru County

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), who was in Ida-Viru County this morning, says the cabinet has discussed potentially sending an Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) field hospital to the region in anticipation of overload of the health system, though the latter, in Ida-Viru County, is more beset by a shortage of staffing than facilities, BNS reports.

A similar EDF field hospital was set up in the grounds of Kuressaare Hospital on Saaremaa – at the time the worst-hit region of the country – during the initial spring coronavirus wave, though in the event it was not used.

Marek Seer, chairman of the board of the University of Tartu Hospital, said that the crisis headquarters of South Estonia has not discussed this possibility. According to him, it is possible to open another 40 beds for coronavirus patients in Narva Hospital, for example.

Speaking about the hospital situation from his vantage point in another region of the country, Mark Seer, chair of the University of Tartu Hospital, says that staff shortages were prevalent in Ida-Viru County hospitals even before the pandemic began, though reorganizing the work there and referring patients to his hospital and others in southern Estonia is one possible solution, Seer says.

Jüri Ratas also says that some redistribution of resources is taking place, for instance with volunteers from a Tallinn health care college relocating to Narva temporarily.

The two main Ida-Viru County hospitals are the Narva Hospital and Ida-Viru Central Hospital.

Ida-Viru County rates more than twice those of Harju

Ida-Viru County's per-100,000-inhabitant COVID-19 rate stands at 834, over twice that of the next-worst affected county, Harju (around 400). The Health Board's eastern region, comprised of Ida-Viru, and the much more sparsely-populated Lääne-Viru, counties, has seen 1,166 new coronavirus cases in the past two weeks, with 68 patients with coronavirus being treated in Ida-Viru Hospital alone, compared with 43 at the West Tallinn Central Hospital (LTKH) and 31 at Tartu University Hosptial.

Ida-Vircu Central Hospital has a 91-percent bed occupancy rate, with Narva's standing at 62 percent; scheduled treatments have been canceled, outpatient care notwithstanding.

The region's care homes are also seeing soaring coronavirus rates.

Nearly 100 Narva Hospital employees are currently on sick leave, BNS reports, around 40 of them being coronavirus-positive.

As if to hammer the point home, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas had to cut short a working trip to Ida-Viru County Friday morning, after receiving notification that he had two days previously been in close contact with a person who later tested positive for the virus. This contact did not take place in Ida-Viru County, however. Ratas is currently self-quarantining and awaiting results of a COVID-19 test.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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