Health minister: New round of Covid restrictions being prepared

Mari-Anne Härma and Tanel Kiik at an earlier press conference.
Mari-Anne Härma and Tanel Kiik at an earlier press conference. Source: ERR

More restrictions against the coronavirus are likely within the next 12 days, health minister Tanel Kiik (Center) said Wednesday. How far-ranging they depend on the situation with the virus and in particular hospitalizations over the next week-and-a-half.

The Health Board (Terviseamet) is preparing its next package of restrictions, to be implemented no later than Monday, November 15, amid a continuing rise in coronavirus figures.

Kiik said Wednesday that he does not rule out extensive measures if the current restrictions – which themselves only entered into force Monday– do not lead to a reduction in infection rates, though stopped short of saying a full lockdown would be on its way.

"We are currently working to ensure that there is no lockdown," Kiik said, appearing at a press conference Wednesday lunchtime.

"However, if the pace of vaccination is not sufficient and infection numbers also present an increase, wide-ranging restrictions will follow. In this case, this would be essential," Kiik went on, adding that the current goal nationwide is to monitor compliance with current measures, hospitalization rates and the vaccination program.

"Every shot of the vaccine can literally save someone's life," Kiik added, reiterating the need for those not yet vaccinated to do so, and to avoid unnecessary contacts and gatherings with others.

The bleakest scenario with hospitals will be here when700-800 patients are hospitalized due to the virus, though a precise figure is not possible, partly as it depends on the workload of the various hospitals, Kiik said.

Also appearing at Wednesday's press conference, Health Board Acting Director-General Mari-Anne Härma clarified the importance of family members of a coronavirus-positive person quarantining at home and testing themselves with a rapid antigen test.

Härma hinted that quarantine regulations may be altered as part of the proposed new raft of restrictions due by mid-month.

"In the near future, it is planned to make a similar proposal to the government of the republic so that the quarantine order can be changed," she said.

Härma added that it will be clear by the end of next week whether the current restrictions have been sufficient to prevent the worst-case scenario in hospitals as noted above, while a growth rate in hospitalizations of around 10 percent this week and 5 percent by the end of next week would mean that this worst-case scenario was likely to materialize, even as such figures would be down on the current growth rate of 16 and 20 percent this week.

The Health Board will publish more detailed measures next week, Härma added.

As of Wednesday alone, the board reported 2,306 new coronavirus cases - a record daily high since the pandemic began, along with 13 deaths.

Hospitalizations also breached the 600-mark today, Wednesday, the original figure the government had said was its benchmark critical level when the current restrictions were first announced, last week.

Over 12,000 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed in Estonia last week, compared with just under 10,000 the preceding week, while the number of deaths reported nearly doubled, from 40 to 71.

The current restrictions which came into force this week and which, among other things, struck off the validity of proof of negative test results in order to enter a wide range of venues and events, are here.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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