Report: Why does Lasnamäe have such a high rate of coronavirus?

Lasnamäe- Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Tallinn's Lasnamäe district has had one of Estonia's highest rates of coronavirus infection for several months, ERR's reporter Anton Aleksejev spoke to residents to find out why and how they are coping.

As of Monday morning, Lasnamäe, Tallinn's biggest district, has a 14-day infection rate of 2,824 per 100,000 inhabitants which is far higher than the national average of 1416.65 per 100,000 people.

ETV's Sunday night current news show "Aktuaalne kaamera. Nädal" (AK) spoke to Olga Vinkel who went to visit her mother in Lasnamäe and asked if she sees any danger in such behavior.

"There are a lot of people in my neighborhood who have suffered from the virus and of course, I'm careful now. There was a time when I didn't enter my mother's house when dropping off her food. Now I've taken a test and I'm all fine," she said.

However, in some apartment blocks, attitudes towards wearing masks and getting vaccinated can differ. While wearing a mask is common, not everyone is convinced about getting vaccinated.

"I don't wish to be vaccinated because I'm not 100 percent sure that all vaccines help," Olga Vassiljevna Petrikejeva said.

Olga's mother thinks only young people are breaking the rules. "Of course, among the young, more people are not wearing masks, not keeping their distance. They think they will live forever," Petrikejeva said.

Daniel Vinkel, representing the younger generation, has a different opinion. "Because younger people are more educated and know a lot about the coronavirus, they wear the mask correctly. When we go to a shop or on a bus and look at people over 30 and see how they're wearing the mask - they are wearing it, but aren't [wearing it correctly] at the same time," he told AK.

AK also spoke to people who were sceptical about the restrictions in place to limit the spread of coronavirus.

"I am forced to follow these restrictions because there is no other choice. But our head of state goes skiing in Switzerland. And Prime Minister Kaja Kallas also got infected even though she was wearing the mask and following the restrictions," Natalja Parkanen told AK.

Natalja and her friend Diana Kovaljova do not even want to receive the Russian vaccine Sputnik. "I am not waiting for any of the vaccines," Kovaljova said.

"Vaccination doesn't solve the problem because the current vaccine helps for half a year, if I remember correctly. What's the point in getting vaccinated every half a year? And the coronavirus has such different symptoms - one has a lung infection and the other can't go to the toilet. And what is the vaccine against then?" she said.

In Kalevipoja 5, 10 residents were infected and one of them died. What is the attitude toward vaccinating now?

"Some believe in the vaccines, others are afraid. But the majority are afraid. There's a lot of negative marketing around vaccines, especially AstraZeneca that people die. They believe in Sputnik and Pfizer more," the chairwoman of the apartment association said.

Poet and writer Andres Langemets has lived in Lasnamäe for 30 years. He has been vaccinated with Pfizer and is now looking at his Russian neighbor's behavior from the ninth floor.

"I can't tell the difference by nationality. Let's say that the Russians are more sociable, they communicate a little more often," he said.

At first glance, it seems that the root cause is the people who do not follow the restrictions and do not want to be vaccinated. However, the current corona outbreak in Lasnamäe has several socio-economic reasons behind it.

According to statistics, about 40 percent of Estonians have jobs that allow them to work from home but only 17 percent of Russian speakers do.

The Premia ice cream factory employs 120 people, last year seven of them were infected with the virus, this year 20 people have already suffered from the virus. Everyone who can work from home does. But ice cream cannot produce itself.

"Our lines are very automated, we still make 22-25 tons of ice cream every day. But full automation is "Premia's" and my dream. Maybe in five or seven years we will build an ice cream factory in Estonia and it will be fully automatic," Aivar Aus, the manager of Premia Tallinn, said.

Sales staff are also at risk due to the behavior of some customers.

"Unfortunately, we have people who say I'm not afraid or I'm already vaccinated. They only think about themselves. We always offer them masks, but they reject them," Ketrin Vilu, a worker at Mustakivi Rimi, said.

In the Lasnamäe Orthodox Church, Father Grigori holds the service in a mask despite the fact that the church is empty. He said local people follow all the restrictions.

"A Christian is by nature obedient to the law. Primarily to the law of God, but also to the law of the state as long as these laws do not contradict each other," he said.

Last weekend, risk groups were vaccinated at the Medicum family medicine center in Lasnamäe. 2,000 doses were quickly booked up, but there weren't many Russians.

"Russian-speaking people are more skeptical. They may be more afraid, they have less trust and they have more questions, it's harder to work with them. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try," Anna Chichikova, head of nursing at Medicum Family Medicine Center, said.

Anastassia Voronina and her family follow all the restrictions, wear masks, avoid appointments and wait for their vaccinations. Anastassia is sympathetic to coronavirus dissidents.

"People are always afraid of what they don't understand. Because of their level of education, a person may have the same understanding of a vaccine as they have about space, a person doesn't know what it is and how it works. In that case, of course, people are afraid," she said.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Helen Wright

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