'Esimene stuudio': Party chairmen debate coronavirus restrictions

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"Esimene stuudio" parliament's chairmen Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Chairmen of the Riigikogu's parliamentary parties held a heated debate over the coronavirus restrictions on ETV's "Esimene stuudio" show on Wednesday (December 16).

The prime minister and chairman of the Center Party Jüri Ratas said that when establishing restrictions, the government is looking for balance in restricting the spread of the virus and the effect on economy and employment. He added that decisions are not made based on how popular they will be.

Ratas said that, regarding hospitals, discussions about closing scheduled treatment will soon have to be made as the number of coronavirus patients has increased.

Chairwoman of the opposition Reform Party Kaja Kallas said the party is expecting a plan about how to fight the coronavirus from the government.

Minister of finance and chairman of EKRE Martin Helme said in spring, all decisions were made at the right time and there is data which show Estonia came out of the first wave as one of the most successful countries.

He added the lessons learnt from spring have been considered and the government wants to keep society as normal as possible. The price of this is an increase in the number of cases.

Chairman of the opposition Social Democratic Party Indrek Saar acknowledged the government for the fast work it did in spring. But, at the same time, he accused the government of not preparing for the second wave.

He said the government did not deal with compensating sick leave at the right time, has not sent clear messages about wearing masks from the start and caused confusion with its decision to close the schools.

Chairman of the Isamaa Party Helir-Valdor Seeder said, overall, the government has acted correctly but admitted the government could have been clearer in its communications.

Kallas said that instead of preparing for the second wave, the government took time off in summer. Helme did not agree and said that in summer, the government was eliminating the debt caused by closing scheduled treatment.

Ratas said the government has made a vaccination plan and that education has been kept open for three and a half months.

Opposition leaders accused the government of closing schools while keeping entertainment open. Seeder said that it was the right time to close schools because the Christmas break starts in one week.

The opposition said that Ida-Viru County has been left alone

The situation in Ida-Viru County's created conflict as well. The second wave of the coronavirus has been especially strong on Estonia's eastern county, where strict restrictions have been set due to high infection rates.

Saar highlighted that a big problem there is workplace outbreaks and the government should have reacted faster.

Helme said €2.8 million has been issued in support to Ida-Viru County companies who have been forced to close due to the restrictions. He said they have not left Ida-Viru County alone.

Kallas said the people living there feel that they have been left alone because in spring when the epicenter was in Saare County, the government provided help much more actively.

Ratas disagreed: "On the contrary, Ida-Viru County is clearly in focus. This not is only Ida-Viru County's worry. Today it's in Ida-Viru County, yesterday in Tartu, in spring in Saare County. We can't say it's only one county's concern."

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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