Virologist: Restrictions might not be enough for Tallinn and Harju County

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A sign asking customers to please wear a mask in Tallinn's Viru Keskus shopping center. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Even with a new set of restrictions coming into force this week, experts say that even stricter measures must be thought up as infection rates continue to soar. Minister of Health and Labour Tanel Kiik (Center) does not rule out implementing stricter restrictions in trade and catering.

Andres Merits, a virology professor at the University of Tartu and one part of the government's scientific advisory council, said he would not change the recommendations the council made last week, leading to a new set of restrictions to come into force fully on Wednesday, March 3.

An issue by itself could arise from the government not implementing all of the council's recommendations, especially when it comes to closing malls. "My opinion is that restrictions might not be enough for all of Estonia. They might be enough for some regions and situations, but likely not for Tallinn and Harju County, where the situation is most difficult," Merits said.

The virologist added that one of two things must be done - either make the restrictions stricter or begin enforcing them.

Health minister Tanel Kiik said there are certainly places where surveillance can be made more efficient, but constant monitoring of people and companies is simply not conceivable, as resources are slim. Kiik added that there are differing opinions in government when it comes to restrictions and the ones agreed upon were imposed.

He did not rule out having to make restrictions stricter in the near future. "It is currently reasonable to restrict all activities that are not unavoidably necessary, meaning trade, catering, entertainment and the culture sector. There is nothin to do, Estonia has never been under such COVID-19 pressure," the minister said.

Kiik added that no MP has yet supported establishing a curfew, as was done in Latvia for example.

Previous foreign minsiter and current opposition MP Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa), said the established restrictions are not sufficient and the government should make bolder decisions.

"The diagnosis is: human. It is actually hesitation in decision-making. And the previous government also went through this in different phases. But there is one lesson. If you hesitate to make a decision on day X, you must actually apply much stricter restrictions in a few weeks," Reinsalu noted.

This week, the government will also discuss compensation measures for sectors most affected by the pandemic.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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