Indrek Kiisler: Let us soon set free the vaccinated

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Indrek Kiisler. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

I believe we should allow the movement of people who are fully immunized or have recovered from the virus. False solidarity that would see everyone locked up until every single man, woman and child is vaccinated might sound beautiful as a slogan but is useless in real life, Indrek Kiisler finds in Vikerraadio daily comment.

Professor Irja Lutsar admitted in an interview that she is disappointed that everyone behaving responsibly is still something that cannot be counted on even in the 21st century. It turned out that Estonians are no different than their western and southern neighbors. We are now in our first major wave of the coronavirus. Estonia had to be locked down as enforcing tough rules helps bring the case rate down much faster.

A considerable part of society feels safer as a result. The state has finally taken the step many yearned for when the leaves started to fall last year. Their hearts are at peace.

But people are not designed to be satisfied and there can always be more security. Indeed, polls suggest that half of society would lay down even meaner coronavirus rules, including having more policemen in the street, more frequent raids and checks! I was left feeling uneasy after I read a rural municipality council member's letter to the municipality government according to which young people were seen in the vicinity of the local youth center. That they should sit home and look at their screens instead.

Many demand that others should feel as wretched as they do at the height of the coronavirus crisis. If I cannot go to the gym, why are tanning salons still open? Why are hairdressers still working? People frantically look for the final cracks in the wall supposed to protect us from the coronavirus and try to board them shut.

For example, more than a few people would erect a pillory at the airport for people who have betrayed their homeland by going on holiday in Tenerife! During a time when the people are supposed to suffer from coronavirus restrictions!

The fact that people returning from holiday make up fewer than 1 percent of Covid patients and that most of them get tested at the airport no longer matters. Not to mention that the coronavirus case rate is ten times lower in Spain than it is in Estonia. Some travelers have been vaccinated, while many others have recovered from the virus. None of these arguments matter anymore as society is committed to restrictions.

However, I am afraid that many will be bitterly disappointed once it turns out there will be no drastic reduction in the number of cases. Most European countries that opted for new tough measures in October are still wrestling with case rates amounting to one-third of peaks experienced before or after New Year's. Rules being relaxed puts the virus back on track.

Therefore, the only way out is vaccination. We need to put to bed complaints of possible side-effects as they are nothing compared to the virus. And the advice of a taxi driver who does not speak Estonian is not preferable to that dispensed by family doctors.

However, vaccine deliveries remain slow and we will move into summer and go beyond it with the case rate still in triple digits. This is reflected also in the experience of Israel that despite having vaccinated a large part of its population is currently seeing the virus wreak havoc among young people and children.

How to manage feelings of distress in a situation where there will be no fireworks to mark the end of the second wave?

I believe we should allow the movement of people who are fully immunized or have recovered from the virus. False solidarity that would see everyone locked up until every single man, woman and child is vaccinated might sound beautiful as a slogan but is useless in real life. Especially in knowing that the chances of being vaccinated will grow in the coming months.

This strategy sets itself in contrast with demanding everyone feel equally miserable. For example, I have not been vaccinated, while a colleague in the radio has received both doses. Others have recovered from COVID-19. What are they waiting for?

An increasingly large part of society could return to normality this way. We can open gyms, museums, coffee shops, stores and everything else to them. Tens of thousands will be able to return to work. The age-old wisdom of teaching a man to fish still applies in the 21st century. It is a matter not just of reopening the economy but also of delivering hundreds of thousands of people from risk of depression.

Some 300,000-350,000 people will have been vaccinated or recovered from the virus by May – a third of the adult population. Demanding vague solidarity and forcing these people to wait for a miracle to come and remove the virus would be foolish and detrimental to society.

The return to normality must take place based on strict rules. New rules will be needed in countless fields. One example is the adoption of a coronavirus passport.

Let us be honest, Finland's now borderline xenophobic government that is brilliant at coming up with limitations and restrictions has closed its border with Estonia. The only people with any hope of crossing the border are those holding a Covid passport. This would allow at least some Estonian men and woman working in Finland to visit their families and restore communication between people that is necessary for both countries.

All of it requires agreements. For example, how to open gyms so that those who have escaped Covid could use them? Should we only allow vaccinated people to enter cafes, while the rest can enjoy the fresh air?

What saddens me the most is that we can hear nothing at all in terms of proposals on how to effect this restart. It is likely unpopular to engage in something like that when we are still busy placing blame.

The Riigikogu has held several lengthy sessions on who got what wrong, who is responsible and how to get the case rate under control in recent weeks. Not a word has been said on what will happen in spring and summer. A rapid restart should be the number one concern of Estonia and Europe, so let us take the first timid steps.

Some might even turn out to be missteps, but even those lessons would be worth more than standing still and looking for culprits in Brussels, Estonian agencies, among politicians or journalists.

The government should have a thoroughly negotiated plan, with medical experts and the whole of society really, on how to leap back into normality without falling off the saddle again by St. George's Day at the latest. A plan that would not see Estonia derailed again when another wave hits. Let us use our time to put in place new rules instead of spying on one another.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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