Minister of Social Affairs: Government can't overreact with restrictions

Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center)
Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center) Source: Margarita Mironova/ERR

Every country has to make its own decisions in the coronavirus pandemic and Estonia has made the right ones regarding restrictions, compared with the rest of Europe, Minister of Social Affairs, Tanel Kiik (Center) told ETV current affairs show "Esimene stuudio" Tuesday evening.

Kiik noted that in the terms of the pandemic, other countries' practices shouldn't be copied thoughtlessly. Strict restrictions shouldn't be established either, especially when it can be seen that they don't bring success.

"We see states with strict restrictions where the number of cases is not decreasing; we see states with more relaxed restrictions, like Estonia, which is in a good position in the European sense," Kiik said.

Kiik brought out Lithuania as an example, where the general quarantine established a month ago hasn't been a success; the situation is even worse. "The main worry is whether these measures are complied with. Lithuania established their quarantine a month ago and the rate has increased 2.5 times. Why do we assume that we establish strict restrictions, a lockdown, and everybody will euphorically follow the rules? There is no point in establishing restrictions just for the sake of restrictions. There is no point in watching how much somebody goes for a run or walk, which has been in several countries in Europe. I think Estonia is on the right track," Kiik said.

New decision at the end of the week

The government's coroanvirus Scientific Council has advised the cabinet to implement stricter rules for Ida-Viru County, given the area's infection rate is close to a thousand and clearly higher than elsewhere in Estonia.

"The second half of the week will bring clarity into which measures should be established in Ida-Viru County. So far, from nine out of the 10 decisions, the government has acted according to the recommendations made by the Scientific Council, and it is possible we will also decide to establish the restrictions, but we have to look at the rest of the picture. We can't only base the decision on the health indicators alone," Kiik noted.

However, Kiik said that people should be ready for more strict rules because in addition to the complicated situation in Ida-Viru County and Harju County, the number of cases is increasing in Tartu as-well.

"We have to be ready for gradually establishing restrictions in areas across Estonia but we don't want to overreact, to shut the country down entirely, hit the economy and society hard in a situation where we have 20,000 more unemployed people than in spring," Kiik said.

Paid vaccination was considered

On Tuesday, December 8, mass vaccinations started in the U.K.; in Estonia and elsewhere in the EU, vaccinations should start in the new year.

Kiik said that if 60-70 percent of Estonians get vaccinated, it is enough to tame the virus. This will be free-of-charge, but the coalition wasn't so sure about that at the beginning, Kiik noted.

"There was a debate in the government whether the vaccine should be free or not," Kiik said.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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