Volunteers from across Estonia have gone to the southern Estonian country of Põlva to aid the county's care home and hospital which are experiencing staff shortages. The mayor does not believe local restrictions will curb the infection rate.
Twenty-two of the 37 Põlva care home residents have been infected with coronavirus and two of them are currently in hospital, ETV current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Sunday.
The care home's manager Aet Olle told the program: "We've already had four volunteers and two are specialized treatment. They are not from Põlva, but mainly from Tartu and Võru. It seems that Põlva's people don't really want to help."
Põlva Hospital is also running on volunteers because due to the coronavirus, 20 nurses and 10 caregivers are infected. Despite the volunteers, the most critical moments have not yet passed.
"Often employees fall ill suddenly and we have to find replacements. In fact, covering each shift is a huge headache," the head of the hospital Margot Bergmann said.
"We are regularly testing patients, vaccinated patients as well because they also get infected. We can see it's not possible to continue like this, something needs to be done quickly because the need for hospital care comes in time. If today we can see there are outbreaks in the care homes, but will they need hospital treatment, we don't know yet," she said.
On Friday, Põlva's crisis committee called the government to establish stricter restrictions across Estonia. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) advised canceling all events in Põlva.
Mayor Georg Pelisaar does not think this is a solution.
"For example, [looking at] our theater and cinema hall. It's built for 500 people, currently, there are around 400 places. And there are around 8-12 people at one cinema screening. There were no visitors at the last screening. At concerts, theater shows, there are around 100 people, lately more like 30-40 people," Pelisaar said.
A choir of Siberian Tatars is expected to perform at the cultural center on Wednesday. The municipality will make a decision on this on Monday.
The Health Board (Terviseamet) said only one person has fallen ill in Põlva during hobby activities during the last week. There are no outbreaks in municipal schools either. Most coronavirus-infected people are aged 30 to 50.
The mayor said, however, the danger is not the cultural center, but rather private parties and gatherings.
"In fact, there's only so much we could do. Maybe we can limit sports events, cultural events that take place in Põlva municipality, but people can go to Võru or Tartu and they go there often," he said.
In Põlva County, 67 percent of the adult population has been vaccinated with at least one injection.
Editor: Roberta Vaino, Helen Wright