Postimees: Scientific council unhappy with restriction easing timetable

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Irja Lutsar, chief of the government's coronavirus advisory council, has urged a lack of hysteria, both on the arrival of the 'Indian' COVID-19 strain, and on the implications of its presence. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Members of the government's scientific advisory council are unhappy with the government's quick easing of restrictions and are advocating a step-by-step approach instead, daily newspaper Postimees reported on Wednesday.

On Monday (April 19), the council said children could start returning to school from April 26 and that this should be prioritized above opening other areas of society. It should be carried out in isolation, the council said, so the infection rate can be monitored as an increase in the infection level is likely. Further relaxation could then follow and the infection rate should be monitored at every stage.

But, on Tuesday, the government said classes 1-4 can return to school from May 3 and simultaneously eased restrictions on restaurants, shops, museums and indoor and outdoor training.  

"It makes me very worried," Lutsar told Postimees and council member and mathematician Krista Fischer voiced the same concerns.

The council did not mention opening shopping malls on Monday and only advised that rules around outdoor activities should be relaxed for young people, the scientists said.

Lutsar especially does not agree with delaying older pupils' return to school so the economy can be partially reopened.

"We must be ready to slow down the easing again if the situation gets worse," she said. 

The scientists said, as Estonia's R rate is around 0.85, only a small rise in the infection rate would push it back over 1 which would then see the infection rate grow very quickly.

New case rate still high

While Estonia's 14-day infection rate has fallen in recent weeks and is now below 600 per 100,000 inhabitants it is still very high. Last week more than 3,000 new cases of coronavirus were diagnosed which is similar to the rate in December.

When the emergency situation ended in May 2020, fewer than 100 cases a week were being reported.

Currently the infection rate - R - is between 0.8 and 0.85 but if it rises above one, the rate will start to grow very quickly.

Restriction easing timetable

From April 26:

  • Group training for up to 10 people, including an instructor, can take place outside.

From May 3:

  • Classes 1-4 and children with special needs can return to school.
  • Bar and restaurant outdoor terraces can open until 9 p.m. with up to 10 people at a table. Indoor service is still restricted but food can be sold for take-away.
  • Shops can reopen with a 25 percent occupancy limit. Masks must be worn and the 2+2 rule followed.
  • Training can take place indoors but the 2+2 rule must be followed. Group training cannot take place.
  • Museums can be open until 7 p.m. with a 25 percent occupancy limit.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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