Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise considers the currently imposed restrictions in Estonia to be legitimate because hospitals getting overburdened must be avoided. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said doctors no longer want to work in coronavirus wards.
Madise said at a sitting of the Riigikogu's social affairs committee that the imposed restrictions and rules are legitimate and justified in the attempt of lessening the burden on hospitals. "It is inarguable that the burden on hospitals is a serious issue and must be solved," the justice chancellor said.
"Unvaccinated people have a much higher risk when compared to vaccinated or recovered people in getting hospitalized in a very bad condition. This is confirmed by Estonia's experiences," Madise added.
The justice chancellor noted that nationwide restrictions on society are not currently justified, because there is a scientific consensus, which states that the coronavirus will continue to circulate and will reach each person at some point. This means there is no hope of getting rid of the virus in the near future.
Madise said the justice chancellor's office has remained stable in their positions since 2010. "We have always been on a position that rights and freedoms are balanced with obligations. Secondly, we must only impose restrictions that have a legitimate effect toward our goal.
"Thanks to the availability of vaccines now, the main goal is avoiding hospitals getting overburdened - restrictions need to be implemented to avoid hospitals getting overburdened. The established orders are to be followed, even if people do not like it. If restrictions have been imposed, the state must also ensure that they are compiled with," Madise said.
She also said a coronavirus recovery certificate should last a year, as vaccination certificates do. She specified that EU legal acts do not prohibit this change.
Doctors no longer willing to work in coronavirus wards
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) also spoke on issues in the healthcare sector and said hospitals do not necessarily lack beds, but rather doctors. "People are just no longer willing to work in these wards," she said.
The prime minister's statement was echoed by Estonian Medical Association representative Andres Kork. He noted that doctors who managed the overtime and general difficulty of the previous coronavirus waves are now exhausted.
"Why should we treat them if they say the disease does not exist? Why should we try? Is there freedom without responsibility?" Kork said of the questions doctors ponder.
He added that if people do not wish to get a free vaccine provided to them by the state, they should have to pay for their own coronavirus testing, in addition to not receiving benefit payments from the Health Insurance Fund for sick days spent in quarantin.
Kallas commented on the new restrictions, which entered into force on Monday, and said negative tests are no longer accepted because while it does prove the person is not infected, they might not be protected from the virus itself. "Therefore, to lessen the burden on hospitals, we need to limit access to entertainment for unvaccinated people," the prime minister noted.
Isamaa secretary-general Priit Sibul asked Kallas about testing everyone everywhere if the spread of the coronavirus is so common. "If we test everyone, it leaves people no motivation to get vaccinated," Kallas responded.
The prime minister said she does not support the idea of paying motivational bonuses to the elderly for vaccinations and booster doses. Kallas pointed to studies, which say financial motivation for people doubting in vaccines can even amplify their fears.
At the same time, Kallas said the Ministry of Social Affairs is currently looking into arranging the financial bonuses legally.
"It is not right to normalize the deaths of old people," Kallas responded to a question from EKRE MP Kert Kingo, who asked the prime minister how the restrictions on entertainment help in getting the elderly to vaccinate.
EKRE deputy chairman Mart Helme asked why the government has not made an effort to improve the healthcare system and to increase the number of hospital places. Helme said more ventilators should be acquired and noted that the current and previous governments have allocated hundreds of millions to the healthcare system.
"If the most popular party [in Estonia] says people should get vaccinated, it works," Kallas responded. "If you wanted to protect people, you would call them to consider it. But you do not want to get a handle on the virus."
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste