Health minister: Mask obligation likely to be dropped in mid-June

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Minister of Health and Labour Tanel Kiik (Center). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

While the government's scientific council has advised the mask-wearing obligation be dropped from June 7, the government has not made a decision on it yet. The issue will be discussed again on June 8 and if infections continue on a downward trend, the mask obligation could be eased, said Minister of Health and Research Tanel Kiik (Center).

Kiik said at a government press conference on Wednesday that he cannot state anything concrete just yet, because the spread of the virus must still be monitored, along with indicators on vaccine coverage.

"The midpoint of June will be the time where we will likely be able to take that step," Kiik said and added that the mask-wearing obligation would be replaced by a general recommendation for people to cover their mouths in public places.

The minister explained that when compared to the rest of the Baltics, Estonia's coronavirus situation has been the best, but there is a long way to go when compared to Nordic countries.

Kiik added that while infection rates are estimated to decrease in Estonia and the EU over the summer, a great drop is not forecast for the rest of the world. About a tenth of the world's population have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, the minister added.

"This pandemic will be under control in the rest of the world at one point, but we are not there yet," he noted, adding that people should only travel domestically or within the EU this summer.

In addition, Kiik called people to get vaccinated and added that vaccinations can be booked by using the 1247 info number.

Pfizer/BioNTech shipment for June 7 decreased by 10,000

Marek Seer, chief of the COVID-19 vaccination work group, explained that there were some 2,000 open time slots for vaccination left in the Patient Portal on Wednesday morning and new times will be added continuously.

There will not be as many new time slots added this weekend as there will be 10,000 fewer Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines shipped to Estonia than initially expected. A majority of those will be left aside for second doses.

Kiik specified that the 10,000 doses will still end up arriving in Estonia in the coming weeks.

Seer noted that demand for vaccines in Estonia is currently higher than demand. "Vaccination centers are working, times are booked up, people are coming and we are rushing calmly," he said.

Case of Brazilian strain discovered in Estonia last week

Hanna Sepp, head of the Health Board's communicable diseases department, said that one infected person in Estonia over the last week was discovered to have the Brazilian strain of COVID-19, but it seems that the person did not infect anyone else.

Sepp said the main locations of issue are still Ida-Viru County and Valga County, where the spread of infection was high last week. The R rate in Valga County has exceeded 1, she added.

Sepp added that the Health Board is also of the mind that the mask obligation should be dropped soon. "It is logical that if infections drop, restrictions about mask-wearing should also be eased," she noted.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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