Declaring an emergency situation in response to rising coronavirus rates is not necessary, at least from a legal and constitutional perspective, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says.
Kallas also said that a communication breakdown on the part of the Health Board (Terviseamet) had been behind confusion in Estonia over the so-called British coronavirus strain, adding that the cabinet would continue to rely on its own coronavirus advisory council – termed the scientific council and headed by University of Tartu Professor of Virology Irja Lutsar – in making decisions on restrictions.
Responding to questions at the Riigikogu Wednesday, the day before virtual lock-down in Estonia comes into effect, the premier said that the situation was quite different from that of last spring, when the virus first arrived in Estonia and when then prime minister Jüri Ratas (Center) and his government imposed an emergency situation – a constitutionally-defined term, which they did on March 13.
Kallas said: "The situation [last] spring was that the government could not impose restrictions on movement, all the various restrictions that we can impose today, because in the spring we amended the law and we can impose all restrictions now."
"Therefore, legally, there's on need for us to declare an emergency situation, we can impose all these restrictions," Kallas went on, adding that one action which cannot be taken in the absence of an emergency situation is mobilizing the defense forces for a period of longer than 30 days.
On the issue of the British and South African coronavirus strains, Kallas said that recent analysis had found 75 percent of samples containing these strains, overwhelmingly the British variety, but placed responsibility for a lack of communication on both the strains' prevalence, and their virulence – Kallas said the British variant propagates 1.5 times more quickly than other types of COVID-10 – at the doors of the Health Board (Terviseamet).
This is also the reason for previous measures – three rounds of new restrictions have been issued in less than two weeks down to the present – not having their desired impact, Kallas said.
Going forward, Kallas said that her government would heed its own coronavirus advisory council's advice on any potential future restrictions.
"We in the government have always listened to the scientific council's proposals, discussed them and established restrictions as needed," Kallas said.
Last year's emergency situation ran March 13-May 17 inclusive.
Editor: Andrew Whyte