Event capacity limits may be reduced to stop covid spreading

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The first day of the Sail Tallinn sea festival at Noblessner. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Due to the increase in the numbers of people infected with coronavirus in Estonia, the government may decide to cut the maximum attendance numbers allowed for events.

Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab (Center), standing in for the prime minister, said at the government press conference on Thursday that the infection rate R currently is between 1.2 and 1.3 and that the infection rate will certainly rise in the coming weeks.

"The situation is serious," the minister said.

Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) said the infection rates have now tripled since Midsummer. He said that there are two options to choose from: either to impose large-scale restrictions or to carry out large-scale vaccination.

Both Aab and Kiik said that if infection rates increase, lowering the attendance limits at events will have to be considered.

According to Kiik, attendance limits have been so high recently that the vast majority of events have been able to proceed.

"In today's situation, events with up to 1,000 people indoors and up to 5,000 people outdoors cannot be allowed," Kiik said. He said that in the future, a vaccination certificate will be required from participants at an ever greater number of events.

Aab noted that recently an increase in infections has taken place particularly among younger age groups. Younger people are also more socially active and participate in various events. Among younger people, there are also many asymptomatic cases and those who experience a milder course of the illness. However, the infection spreads through younger people, and soon people with a more severe course of illness may start reaching hospitals, he added.

Minister of Justice Maris Lauri (Reform) said that the aim is not to restrict public services necessary for life. According to her, entertainment activities will be the first to fall under restrictions.

"For those who have been vaccinated, life will remain open," Lauri said.

On Wednesday, more than 100 cases of coronavirus were diagnosed for the first time since the start of June. The head of the Health Board has already said the third wave has begun and the number of new cases of the coronavirus are rising.

The graph below shows the number of cases diagnosed each week and you can see the increase in recent weeks.

Aab: Hopefully, strict restrictions won't be necessary in third third wave

Jaak Aab expressed hope at the press conference that restrictions as strict as during the previous waves of coronavirus probably will not be necessary during the third wave.

"I believe that a harsh lockdown like there was during the previous waves -- that we will not have to do it," he said.

While the delta strain of the virus that is spreading in Estonia now is more contagious than the previous strains, at the same time, the vaccination coverage in spring was not what it is now.

Tanel Kiik added the government assesses the situation on the basis of seven indicators. These are the average number of deaths, the number of people hospitalized during a seven-day period, the number of people under mechanical ventilation during a seven-day period, the number of cases of infection, the proportion of positive tests, the change in the number of people requiring hospital treatment, and the number of potentially unidentified infected.

Aab emphasized that if restrictions are imposed, it will be done according to the situation.

"All restrictions must be based on the level of danger and the level of risk," he said.

Estonia's current vaccination coverage rate is 55.1 percent. News portal Politico Europe reported that Estonia is likely to miss the 70 percent coverage rate target set by the European Commission for September.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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