Isamaa MP attends council meet after identified coronavirus close contact

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Isamaa MP Aivar Kokk. Source: ERR

An Isamaa MP recently attended a council meeting in the town of Jõgeva, fully in the knowledge he had been identified as a close contact of a coroanvirus carrier, Baltic News Service reports. His actions have led to over 60 people being identified as coroanvirus carriers, a status he himself ignored.

The MP, Aivar Kokk, tested positive for the virus the next day, but had already widely circulated in Jõgeva and at the council meeting, where Isamaa deputies found themselves facing a vote of no-confidence.

Kokk, who heads up the Riigikogu's finance committee, traveled to the town of Jõgeva to take part in a rural municipality council meeting, despite having received notification of a recent contact with a colleague who had been diagnosed with coronavirus, the regional, BNS reports, citing regional daily Tartu Postimees (link in Estonian).

While Kokk tested positive for COVID-19, on a test taken Monday morning (the results were available that evening, BNS reports), he later claimed he had only been informed of his status as a close contact after the meeting – which BNS reports was not the case.

Kokk subject to encouragement to attend meeting

A source told Tartu Postimees that Kokk's actions in arriving at the meeting Sunday afternoon demonstrated he was aware that he had been identified as a close contact, though other attendees encouraged him to come anyway.

"We were outside in front of the house (at around 4 p.m., an hour before the meeting was due to start – ed.) when Aivar arrived and said, from a distance that this was as far as he could go, and he could not attend the meeting, because he was a close [coronavirus] contact," the source said.

"He was instead encouraged to come in," the witness added, noting that he produced a text message on his cellphone which informed him he was a close contact.

"It also did not occur to me to tell him to go away, or that I should have left myself," the source added.

Kokk one of several Isamaa MPs with COVID-19

Kokk is not a government minister in the outgoing Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition. MPs from his party saw a recent outbreak, with X testing positive for the virus.

Kokk is not a government minister in the outgoing Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition. MPs from his party saw a recent outbreak, with six members (out of a Riigikogu complement of 12) having tested positive for the virus as of Tuesday.

Kokk had, the source said, been in Jõgeva for the few days leading up to the meeting, which comprised 10 councilors, and moved around there; this in turn may have widened the circle of close coronavirus contacts.

Source: Kokk involved in last ditch bid to cling to power in Jõgeva

The source also said Kokk was likely keen to remain at the meeting since his party saw a vote of no-confidence which passed, pushing Isamaa into opposition on the city council.

"Thus, his participation in the session was a desperate desire to hold on to power until the last minute," the source told BNS.

Once Kokk tested positive, the Health Board (Terviseamet) set about establishing a new circle of close contacts relating to him, which as of Thursday number 61, BNS reports.

Kokk told Tartu Postimees Thursday that he had been aware of the recent COVID-19 outbreak affecting Isamaa MPs, but that he had avoided those infected and had said before the meeting that he would be socially distancing.

The Riigikogu switched to remote sessions as a result of the outbreak.

Isamaa has found itself left out of coalition negotiations to form the next administration, prompted by the resignation of Jüri Ratas (Center) as prime minister earlier this month. The Reform and Center parties are holding talks aimed at setting up one of the first bi-partite coalitions to have existed in Estonia since restoration of independence; most coalitions in recent years have involved three parties, but with 59 Riigikogu seats combined, Reform and Center have a comfortable majority at the 101-seat chamber.

Notifications of close contact status are generally being sent via SMS by the Health Board. The HOIA app provides an additional means of close contact notification, and had been downloaded by a total of 250,000 users as of January 7.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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