Every Estonian must now think about what they can do to help doctors, nurses and caregivers, President Alar Karis said Friday afternoon, adding that the national healthcare system is virtually on its knees.
Speaking to the media from his official residence at Kadriorg and joined by chief doctors from four of Estonia's major hospitals, the new president said: "We must all have to do something right now, each and everyone according to their own mind and abilities."
"I invite you to think deeply about what every Estonian can personally do, to help our doctors, nurses and caregivers, now, and immediately. Whether this means vaccination, quarantining at home, maintaining social distancing from fellow citizens, foregoing a family party, wearing a face-mask or any other sensible act."
President Karis said that the entire healthcare system is exhausted and overworked, and has been for an extended period, through the pandemic.
"A very large number of our compatriots will no longer be able to see a doctor with their health concerns at the agreed time in the near future, for example, for a scheduled operation or examination," he said.
"The time when we all come to know someone who is suffering, but not from the coronavirus, during the crisis and who cannot be treated in time, is not far off. Nor is one where a doctor is so tired out and spent that he or she can no longer work in a hospital or at the family doctor's center. Nor is one where we know someone who is going to die," the head of state continued.
"In caring for ourselves, we help doctors, nurses and carers so that they can help us. According to the heads of hospitals, the restrictions unfortunately do not seem to be working, nor are they being followed in society."
"We have all drawn our first breaths in this world thanks to healthcare workers; many of us also take our last breaths under their care. Let us now take measures to ensure that as many Estonians as possible draw their lasts breaths well into the future rather than today, tomorrow or next week."
"Let us now support our medical workers. Our actions affect not only ourselves but also everyone else – our loved ones, our co-workers and society as a whole," the president concluded.
Hospital chiefs: Restrictions crucial, mandatory, to stave off disaster
Arkadi Popov, board chair at the West Tallinn Central Hospital (LTKH), said that his hospital's staff are overwhelmed and working under great stress and strain.
Popov said: "It is crucial for us to feel the support of both the Estonian population and the government, in order to see that the restrictions actually work and will contribute to racking the epidemic and improving the situation."
Agris Peedu, board chair at the North-Estonian Regional Hospital (PERH), reminded the public that restrictions are mandatory.
"Every day brings us very large numbers, which is a major challenge for all medical staff," Peedu said, adding that treating covid requires twice as many staff, for twice as long.
Priit Perens, board chair at Tartu University Hospital said: "We are close to disaster," urging the public to wear a mask at all times in public places, to maintain social distancing and to follow all restrictions.
Tarmo Bakler, board chair of East Tallinn Central Hospital (ITKH), said he hoped that those who had been notified of the postponement of a scheduled treatment would be sympathetic to to the situation.
He said: "If there is a wait line at ER which seems too long, we beg for understanding, since it is really hard at the hospitals at the moment."
All the hospital chiefs reiterated the importance of vaccination to cope with the pandemic over the long term.
Estonia has among the highest coronavirus daily rates in Europe at present, twinned with one of the lowest levels of adult vaccinations.
How can the spread of coronavirus be stopped?
- The most efficient measure is keeping your distance.
- In crowded places and especially indoors where it is not possible to keep your distance from other people, it is advisable to wear a mask.
- Closed, crowded spaces should be avoided if possible.
- Hands must be washed frequently with soap and warm water.
- When you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth and nose with disposable tissue.
- Anyone who becomes ill should stay at home, even if their symptoms are mild.
- People who develop any symptoms should contact their family physician.
Editor: Andrew Whyte