EDF chief doctor: COVID-19 hard to stop among conscripts

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EDF conscripts' boots on the ground. Source: Karl Jakob Toplaan

According to chief Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) doctor Lt. Col. Targo Lusti, there are currently 220 cases of COVID-19 in the EDF with 175 of those conscripts. The problem is magnified by the fact that conscripts live side-by-side in barracks, where the virus is hard to restrict.

The most dangerous are conscripts who have just come from a weekend off and were in contact with people who have tested positive for COVID-19. Most conscripts who were called to service last summer are currently on a city permit.

"If a soldier goes on city permit, then this period is made three-day deliberately. Meaning, if there is a situation where the conscript has close contacts at home or they meet a friend who could be positive, the soldier has time to notify the unit: I have come in contact with a positive, therefore I cannot return to the unit," said Guard Battalion Lt. Col. Margot Künnapuu.

After notifying their unit, the soldier must remain at home for a day, during which their battalion must organize isolation conditions. The conscript can then return to the unit and will remain in isolation for ten days, during which they will go through testing. If their test comes back negative, the soldier will return to their service.

Units in Tallinn however have a separate set of conditions. "The two units in Tallinn are both in rooms older than 100 years, they were not planned for activities during a pandemic. Therefore, the two campuses in the Navy's base and the Cyber Command have needed additional support. And we have used the campus in Paldiski for this," said EDF chief physician Targo Lusti.

A conscript can stay in Paldiski for more than a month, but the period tends to be shorter on average. The young soldier will also fall out of the roster of homeland defenders for the time.

"Soldiers might have a justified question during this 10 or 20 days, where frustration grows, as they are in service and are not doing anything. But at the same time, we can continue training right after," Künnapuu said.

The battalion chief currently takes many calls a day from worried family members and relatives, worrying about their close ones. "Parents should have patience, as is the rest of society, we too are fighting this covid-virus. And we are truly giving our best for soldiers to have the right information and so they would know why and where something is going on," Künnapuu added.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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