Former social affairs minister, MP Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE) characterizes the Estonian government's handling of the second wave of the COVID-19 crisis as chaotic procrastination and a total failure.
The proposal to compensate people for the first days of sick leave finally landed in the Riigikogu on Monday, but the measure comes several months too late.
The amendment will enter into force from January 1 by which time our hospitals will be severely overloaded and the measure's preventative effect will have been thoroughly missed. It should have entered into force in October at the latest. I honestly cannot understand how one can justify this chaotic procrastination on the government's part.
We could say that sick days are but a single topic. While that's true, it only serves to illustrate the government's total failure in the second wave of the virus.
Experts recommended finding a rapid solution for compensating sick days back in September, but the government kept weighing and considering while the virus went about its catastrophic business.
The government also cannot say it wasn't warned or that there were no calls for systematic action. The Health Board lost track of people's close contacts in late October and the government was shown preliminary forecasts of the epidemic on November 5. The current situation of having 300 people hospitalized by December was the worst-case scenario then.
The government listened to what the experts had to say, made a couple of cosmetic changes and went back to the marriage referendum, sending gay people to Sweden, misuse of official vehicles etc. Scientific forecasts were not taken seriously.
The government was shown a new forecast on November 26 according to which having 400 people in hospitals by mid-December would be a rather optimistic outlook if serious measures were taken, while Estonia could see 600-800 people hospitalized by the year's end if the reins aren't picked up. The powers that be listened, pulled a concerned face and even decided to limit bars' opening hours to midnight (excuse the sarcasm).
We have a minister saying that people need to be able to go to the gym to boost their immune system, while another suggests that bars cannot be closed as they are struggling already. And that masks absolutely need to be worn, but only provided one agrees and has thought these things through, while it doesn't have to be a mask, and if you listen carefully, there is no direct obligation to wear one (apologies again!).
Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart, as one of the few local government heads to realize the severity of the situation and the government's ineptitude, took adequate measures in the capital only to be told off by the government.
However, what did the scientists' November 26 message mean? That if social contacts are not restricted to a notable extent (whether voluntarily or in combination with restrictions), the hospital system will collapse in December. It is that simple. It has been said by Dr. Starkopf, Dr. Sule and Dr. Popov. Our overworked medics and hospital network will simply lose the capacity for planned treatment because they will have to tend to COVID-19 patients. The situation is extremely serious.
It means that in addition to COVID-19 deaths, we will start seeing deaths and permanent health damage from unrelated diagnoses because timely medical care simply will not be available. Especially should this overload of the hospital system last for several months.
Forecasts have gradually turned into reality by now. We will have 350 people with COVID-19 in hospitals a week from now and the number will continue growing. The case rate in Ida-Viru County is one of the worst in Europe and therefore the world and the county's hospital beds are all but full, with nearly 20 percent of people testing positive on some days.
The recent round of the University of Tartu COVID-19 survey suggests that hidden spread has grown considerably, meaning that test results might not paint an accurate situation.
The scientific council has proposed much tougher restrictions for Ida-Viru County, while the government has once again decided not to decide. We need to discuss these things and consider launching an awareness campaign instead, Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik said.
Hello! What needs to happen to spark competent action from the government? What are you waiting for, friends?
We know from spring that we need to be able to look two weeks ahead with this virus. Scientists have done the homework. Christmas time will already be one of ghastly isolation and suffering for the Estonian people, courtesty of the government's management mistakes.
What's at stake today is whether we can hope for a breather next year. Every day lost moves that relief further back. And costs lives.
The comment was originally posted on Jevgeni Ossinovski's Facebook page.
Editor: Marcus Turovski