Vaccinations have helped to reduce hospitalized patients

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A COVID-19 department at the North Estonia Medical Center. Source: North Estonia Medical Center (PERH)

Coronavirus vaccinations have helped cut the number of people needing hospital treatment, Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) said on Wednesday. The infection rate - R - has also fallen to 1.

In the past, 7 percent of people infected required hospital treatment but now the rate has fallen to 5 percent, the minister said.

"If no one had been vaccinated, we would have about 900 patients in hospitals instead of the current 700. It would be an huge burden on hospitals," he said.

However, the current number of patients needing treatment is still very high and patients are now being sent to different hospitals across the country. Doctors are being forced to make choices about who to admit and not everyone who needs help can receive it.

Deputy Director of the Health Board Mari-Anne Härma said even if the infection rate slows, the need for hospital treatment will increase for several more weeks before it falls.

"Vaccination gradually provides relief, but its effect is too slow. The Health Board is discussing additional actions which can be taken. We are already more protected by vaccination in the autumn, but today we need to step up the active fight," she said.

The short-term goal is to ensure the capacity of the health care system, but in the long run it is to give the whole of society time to recover. 

Kiik said that everyone who is offered a dose should accept it as people have two options: to get the disease or to protect themselves against it. 

Vaccination is continuing with risk groups and the over 60s being prioritized above frontline workers due to reductions in vaccine deliveries. In the second quarter of this year, from April, deliveries are expected to rapidly increase in size.

The vaccination of government ministers is due to start today. 

R falls to 1

Kiik said the infection rate has finally fallen to one, but the level of infection has stabilized at a very high rate - which is a concern.

"We were in a snowballing scenario in February, now, in March there has been a 3 to 4 percent increase in infection per week, but that stabilization is too high," he said.

Additional data about Estonia's infection rate can be viewed here (link in Estonian) and was last updated on March 19. 

How can the spread of coronavirus be stopped?

  • The most efficient measure is keeping your distance.
  • In crowded places and especially indoors where it is not possible to keep your distance from other people, it is advisable to wear a mask.
  • Closed, crowded spaces should be avoided if possible.
  • Hands must be washed frequently with soap and warm water.
  • When you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth and nose with disposable tissue.
  • Anyone who becomes ill should stay at home, even if their symptoms are mild.
  • People who develop any symptoms should contact their family physician.

Download 'HOIA'

You can also download Estonia's coronavirus exposure notification app 'HOIA' which will alert you if you have been in close contact with someone who later tests positive for coronavirus.

The free app can be downloaded at the Google Play Store or App Store. Read ERR News' feature about the app here. 

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Editor: Helen Wright

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