PM: It is time for society to take back control from coronavirus

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas on Thursday introduced to the parliament a plan for organizing the society during the coronavirus pandemic, which describes the principles of decision-making and activities needed for Estonia to recover from the virus crisis.

In her political statement, Kallas said that Estonia has been living with the coronavirus for a year and it is time control of the situation be taken back from the virus by the society.

"We have enough research-based knowledge and practical experience to know that the spread of the virus can be contained and controlled if we agree upon and follow fixed rules. That way, we'll be able to keep life in Estonia and the economy open and functioning," she said.

The plan introduced to the Riigikogu and sent to public consultations on Thursday proposes a broader strategy for the functioning and strengthening of the society in the context of the coronavirus together with recommendations on what the state, individuals, organizations and businesses can do to reduce the risk.

"What we want is that in the case of a rise in risk level, everyone should know how to act to prevent it from escalating to a red level," Kallas noted.

A four-tier system of risk levels will be rolled out for assessing the situation. A low, medium, high and very high risk levels will respectively be described with the colors green, yellow, orange and red. On each level, possible activities for curbing the spread of the virus are described for individuals, organizations and the state. For each level, guidelines and recommendations can be created in various fields according to the specific characteristics of the field to protect people's health and reduce the need for government-imposed restrictions. The plan also includes descriptions of restrictions that are to be weighed by the government as the risk level changes.

The premier said that the goal is not to create a situation where the government uses a top-down approach to impose conditions on people, businesses and organizations.

"On the contrary, we want to include the entire society so that everyone should be aware of their role and responsibility in curbing the spread of the virus. We want that all people of Estonia as well as businesses and umbrella organizations operating here should be able to contribute constructive ideas and proposals on how to take sector-wide action to contain the virus. No one wants for their establishment, business, organization or the entire sector to be shut down -- everyone's tired of the restrictions," she said.

The Government Office is thus launching a large-scale discussion process to ensure that all sectors that have been affected by the restrictions so far be able to propose their solutions on what each sector, organization and person can do to reduce the virus risk and prevent the need of a lockdown.

The plan maps out six objectives which the government is to be guided by in its effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The objectives are to protect the people of Estonia from contracting the coronavirus, ensure children the opportunity to acquire high-quality education, mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the Estonian economy and employment, support the sustainability of Estonian culture, support people's mental health and keep cross-border movement as open as possible.

The plan also lists short-term activities for curbing the spread of the virus and mitigating its socio-economic effects, which will be launched this year and funded from this year's supplementary budget. It also includes long-term activities which may take several years to implement.

Based on the principles and risk levels described in the document, a plan for relaxing restrictions will be compiled by the government in cooperation with public authorities next week. The plan for relaxing restrictions will set out measures and principles for relaxing them for different risk levels for instance in commerce, services, hobby education and recreational activities, education establishments and public places according to the situation in the spread of the virus and nature of the activities.

The government will approve the plan for mitigating the effects of the coronavirus after a public consultation on April 22 and the implementation of the plan is to be coordinated by the Government Office.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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