Prime minister on restrictions: Numbers have not come down as we hoped

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Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) on "Esimene stuudio". Source: ERR

The government is forced to extend the currently established restrictions because while the number of daily new cases has gone down some, it is still not enough, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) told ETV's political interview show "Esimene stuudio" on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the government made a decision to extend the current coronavirus restrictions on shops, schools and restaurants until April 25. Kallas said she would like to ease restrictions as soon as possible, but the current situation does not allow it.

"The positive thing is that the infection indicator (also known as the R rate - ed) - has fallen below one. This means that restrictions have worked. But the numbers have not come down as fast as we hoped and that is why we will extend restrictions," she said.

The prime minister noted that the rate of patients needing hospitalization in Estonia has also decreased, to go with one of the lowest mortality rates among hospitalized patients in Europe. The dynamics of the virus and the multiplicity of factors however do not allow for any major changes based on a few positive indicators.

At the same time, the government has certain goal numbers in mind for when decisions to ease restrictions can be made. "We cannot set a specific date right now. But I will give hope that if 400 people need hospitalization, once the daily infections per 100,000 people falls below 500, mortality goes down - then we can talk about dropping restrictions," Kallas added.

On Tuesday, 709 patients needed treatment in hospital, the 14-day infection rate stood at 1,344.64 and a record number of 17 deaths were recorded. In total, 896 people have died after being diagnosed with coronavirus in Estonia.

Harmonization of restrictions nationwide was the correct decision

Kallas did not agree with show host Andres Kuusk when the latter asked if the government's decision in January to harmonize restrictions in all Estonian counties could have been premature or false. Kallas said the decision was made based on existing knowledge and criticizing decisions in hindsight is always simple.

"What do you base your decisions on - what will we close and what will get better. You actually do not have any scientific materials that say: 'Yes, this is the place.' Schools are a good example. We were told that if we close schools, infections will decrease significantly. We closed schools, decided to make that decision, it was a difficult one. We made the decision: No, infection indicators did not come down. On the contrary, we saw that there were still outbreaks in schools. And then they said: 'Well yes, there was not much hope the school thing would work.' That was the main argument at the time, however. It is very complicated to make decisions in the information space you are in at the moment," Kallas said.

The prime minister said some people over-reacted to her recent statements about locking Estonia down for the summer unless the spread of the virus is contained. "I said it in regards to restrictions. We cannot enjoy everything we are used to enjoying if numbers remain this high. That is just facing the facts," she said.

"If people are as good as they have been, then it is a positive, but numbers remain high. Today's (Tuesday - ed) numbers were higher than the goals we set. My desire is not to maintain these restrictions a day longer than necessary," Kallas noted.

The prime minister also said mass vaccinations in May will have a major effect on dropping or easing restrictions for the summer.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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