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Government to discuss new coronavirus restrictions

Stenbock House, the seat of the Estonian government.
Stenbock House, the seat of the Estonian government. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The government will discuss new tighter coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday (February 16) after a rise in infection rates across the country. A final decision will be made on Thursday.

The government will discuss the scientific advisory council's proposals today, ETV's current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported on Monday evening. 

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said on Monday that various restrictions have been discussed. "I think the important thing, that still works best, is that people stay away from each other, wear masks indoors, wash their hands and so forth. Unfortunately, we have restrictions - no restriction is perfect and no restriction works completely, but we're discussing them tomorrow," said Kallas.

Chairman of opposition party EKRE Martin Helme said the current restrictions should be reviewed. He said the previous government, which EKRE was a member of, hoped the arrival of vaccines would improve the situation but it has not yet done so.

Helme said so far Estonia has balanced the infection rate, deaths and the economy quite well but he was critical of the new coalition.

"It is very difficult to find a balance and it seems very clear to me that the new government here, well.. how to say it.. is absolutely not aware of the seriousness of this situation," Helme said.

On Monday, chairman of opposition party Isamaa Helir-Valdor Seeder proposed that Kallas give an overview of the spread of coronavirus and the government's future plans to the Riigikogu. Isamaa Secretary General Priit Sibul told AK Kallas could discuss the subject with Riigikogu members this week.

"If we look at the numbers of the last few weeks, then, unfortunately, they are rising. The infection outbreak is spreading, and if the wastewater surveys show only negative trends, then it is clear that we must hurry," said Sibul.

Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab (Center) said the government has informed the Riigikogu and will continue to do so. Aab told AK he has not ruled out that new restrictions will be implemented and said a balance has to be found until more vaccinations have been administered.

On Monday (February 15), Estonia's 14-day infection rate was 626.2 per 100,000 inhabitants and last Monday it was 549.22.

Last week, 4,561 new cases of coronavirus were diagnosed across Estonia, a new record high number of cases.

Record high levels of coronavirus were detected during the University of Tartu's latest sewage monitoring study which took place during the first week of February.

The last time coronavirus restrictions were applied in Estonia was on February 1. Restrictions were relaxed in Harju and Ida-Viru counties but applied equally across the country.

Professor: We cannot escape without radical action

Speaking on Tuesday morning's "Terevisioon" TV show, member of the scientific advisory council Professor Andres Merits said radical methods are needed to bring down Estonia's coronavirus infection rate

"It is clear that with the current trend, we will not get out of this situation without radical measures," said Merits said.

He said it is likely the number of patients in hospital will rise in the future. "What happens next week is determined by what we did last week. Things will definitely get worse [next week]," Merits said. On Monday, 498 people were being treated in hospitals across the country which means Estonia is almost out of bed spaces for COVID-19 patients. 

Discussing new restrictions, he said the government does not have to implement all the measures at once but that it is reasonable to do something.

He said one of the main sites of new infections are people's homes but it is very difficult to create restrictions to stop these types of outbreaks.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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