Health minister: Mandatory mask-wearing may be gone in weeks

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Health minister Tanel Kiik (Center). Source: ERR

Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) says the mask-wearing requirement in Estonia may be lifted in the coming weeks, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Friday night. Adherence to the regulation has not been as rigorous of late, at least in Tallinn malls and other locations, AK found.

Coronavirus rates have been falling for nine weeks in a row, while the number of those vaccinated continues to rise.

Kiik told AK that: "If these trends continue, it is definitely possible to switch from a mask obligation to a mask recommendation, indoors, during the summer months. If our infection rate falls below 200, we could say that we are in a zone where such an easing could take place."

The current regime has led to some seeming anomalies in schools, which went back to in-class learning earlier this month, since those under 12 are not required to wear a mask, leading to cases where, in the fifth grade, of children who are desk-mates and aged 11 and 12 respectively, one has to wear a mask while the other does not.

Kiik said that allowing schools to make the relevant call was reasonable.

Meanwhile AK found that while last autumn, when the mask-wearing requirement in malls first came back into effect, it was taken seriously by shoppers, if a recent trip to a central Tallinn mall was anything to go by, now it is seen as more of a formality, with, for instance, noses left uncovered, or masks even completely removed.

A personal protective equipment (PPE) expert, Ille Nakurt-Murumaa, confirmed to AK that many wearers did not don their mask in the correct manner: "Not in front of the airways or nose and mouth, but at the tip of the chin, behind the ear, pulling the nose out, or just covering the mouth, or simply wearing it incorrectly"

Nakurt-Murumaa also said that mask-wearing in schools was a red herring.

She said: "I don't think it is feasible to wear an effective mask in general education schools. The requirement to wear a mask in schools is a delusion of ours, in the hope that it will prevent the spread of the infection."

The government's coronavirus advisory council is discussing the issue with the cabinet at the moment, as it has been off and on since late November. The council's chief, virology professor Irja Lutsar, doubled down on her recent estimate that the deadline for the lifting of mask-wearing as a requirement could be measured in terms of weeks, pending the epidemiological situation.

The council will be revisiting the topic in the new week, AK reported.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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