The Health Board forecasts the coronavirus situation to deteriorate further in November, with hospitals filling up faster than anticipated. University of Tartu professor Joel Starkopf believes that closing the country is warranted, while the Health Board recommends putting some schools on remote learning.
The recent daily coronavirus cases figure of 1,636 is very close to the March 17 record of 1,784 cases. Experts believe Estonia will see over 2,000 daily diagnoses after November 1. Deputy Director of the Health Board Mari-Anne Härma said that the same goes for the number of people hospitalized that has been growing faster than forecasts suggested.
We could be seeing over 500 people hospitalized with Covid by November 1 and the figure reaching 700 by late November, meaning that hospitals will be at capacity. From there, we will not have enough doctors and nurses to see to people who need hospitalization," Härma said.
The Tartu University Hospital has suspended regular in-patient care. Professor of intensive care Joel Starkopf said that he understands rulers' reluctance to order tougher measures.
"But looking at these graphs, I would say it is high time to lock down the country, because the cases we diagnose today will translate into hospitalization two weeks from now. A fortnight in which to make the decision," Starkopf said.
Head of the COVID-19 scientific council Irja Lutsar said the situation is more than serious and the infection chains need to be broken.
"Locking down society to get rid of the virus and more importantly boost immunity would make sense," Lutsar said. "We need to take some time to think about the long plan and how long the lockdown could last," she said.
Lutsar emphasized that recent measures need to be complied with first and that a lockdown is a last resort measure that needs to be proportional. Härma said that people most often catch the virus from family members, with it making its way to people's homes from school.
"The Health Board supports putting at least some schools, some study levels on remote learning in cases where the infection rate is high and local vaccination rate low," Härma said.
Talking about potential measures, the Health Board deputy director said that people who have been vaccinated shouldn't be made to feel they are being punished.
"This differentiation, where to draw the line so that unvaccinated people would stay home and vaccinated people could go about their lives, is very difficult to find. That is why there is no universal solution. It requires analysis and discussion, how best go about it," Härma said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski