Former Health Board chief: Restrictions avoid tough decisions at hospitals

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Merike Jürilo Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

According to former Health Board chief Merike Jürilo, the restrictions entering into force on Thursday were necessary to avoid a situation where tough decisions had to be made at hospital doors about allowing people in for treatment. She also noted that there is a lack of analysis when it comes to COVID-19 data.

Jürilo told Vikerraadio morning show "Vikerhommik" that the pressure mounted on healthcare is great and while Thursday's restrictions paralyze people and society, there is no other choice.

"Our helpers are very overburdened and have been for a long time. If we did not do anything today, we would soon have to make choices at hospital doors about who is allowed treatment and who is not. And it would be very tough on health care workers and those close to ill people," Jürilo said.

She added that as citizens, people should protect the health of themselves and others while also supporting healthcare workers, but it is very important that officials would be caring in their actions.

"And not just in words, but that there would be an actual increase in analytical wisdom accompanied with more rapid actions. In that sense, our situation is good, the virus' spread is monitored and universities are conducting research. There is a lot of data, but the problem is that we are only doing overviews of the situation and not creating cause and effect relationships," the former Health Board head said.

She added that Estonia's analytical wisdom is weak and that is why mass control measures must be used. "There is a feeling that data is easy to reflect on. That we say what has happened and what monitoring shows. But why does it show that and what conclusions can we draw? Are changes in behavior and monitoring results related in any way? We do not see these correlations. That is analytical wisdom that we could use more of," Jürilo said.

At the same time, she admitted that the worldwide spread of the coronavirus shows that there is certain seasonality to its spread. "But perhaps epidemiologists at the state level could have been more attentive and once the plateau arrived in December-January, we should not have fallen asleep. Seasonal illnesses also grow in February and March and we should have considered that risk," the former Health Board official noted.

Jürilo said limiting the spread comes from developing immunity. "Meaning, the seasonality of this virus' spread is affective in the end of April and May. There are actually three components that should help us handle the peak of infection by late-spring: the number of people recovered, vaccinations and the seasonal component," she explained.

Jürilo said whether Estonia's chances of facing another wave of the virus come spring depends on how many people are vaccinated by then. She pointed out the availability of vaccines on one hand, but the clarity of vaccine communication on the other. "At the moment, we must make an effort at the individual, official and politician levels. We cannot get tired because it might get worse then," she said.

Jürilo called politicians to a working peace and to not make the governance crisis worse. "Estonia is in a health crisis currently and the coalition and opposition should not deepen the crisis in governance. Each person, whether in politics or at the individual level, should first and foremost think of the interests of the state and human health. I liked the words of my own childrens' school director - let's be kinder to each other, more than usual. That is a recommendation I would make to politicians as well," the former Health Board official said.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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