Helme: Estonia could negotiate with vaccine manufacturers directly

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Martin Helme. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Chairman of the opposition Conservative People's Party (EKRE) Martin Helme finds that Estonia could procure vaccines straight from the market and pay more for them. Talking about new coronavirus restrictions, Helme pointed out that shopping malls were allowed to remain open because the Reform Party is reluctant to compensate traders for lost revenue.

Supply problems at AstraZeneca mean that Estonia will not be taking delivery of the company's vaccine this week. Helme told ERR that the cause of the disagreement between AstraZeneca and the European Union lies in the European Commission and that member states suffer as a result.

"I have been critical ever since we bought personal protective gear using common tenders. Now, a full year later, these common procurements have gotten nowhere. I said right away that it would be no better with medicines. But that was the decision and this is where we are now," Helme said.

Helme sees no problem with Estonia deciding to procure vaccines from the market and paying more to do it.

"Our quantities are laughably small in the European context. And even if it would cost a little more, what we are paying today in closures and people ending up in the hospital is infinitely more expensive still. Talk of EU solidarity is worth nothing at this point and we need to take action ourselves."

Talking about the new restrictions the government all but agreed on on Thursday, Helme said they are needed.

"However, I want restrictions to have a clear end date. Another thing that is unclear from what I've seen in the media is how will these new closures be compensated for. I am critical here."

The head of the largest opposition party added that he is nevertheless glad the government has finally made some sort of a plan and reacted.

"I believe it is sensible to ban concerts and close theaters and cinemas. It is where people come together and even if you disperse them in the theater, they will still mingle in the café, restrooms and the cloakroom. However, all of it needs to be temporary because vaccination is the only real solution."

Helme interpreted the government's decision to not close malls as the ruling Reform Party not wanting to compensate traders for damages.

"In a situation where the state orders something closed, it needs to offer compensation. The reason malls will not be closed is the tight approach the Reform Party has repeatedly taken when in power. Counting coppers. Commerce is a major risk area, while they did not want to shut it down for financial reasons."

Helme added that if people observe restrictions and if vaccination can continue at a brisk pace, the infection rate will come down and it may not be necessary to close malls.

"The government's number one effort should be to speed up the vaccination process. Looking at the news where we are told a lot of people are testing positive, they include a lot of those who have recovered from the disease and are no longer infectious. And because vaccination of risk groups has come along, we should not be daunted by these figures. We should be looking at other things – the workload of hospitals and how society is functioning," EKRE chairman said.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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