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Covid-hit Põlva municipality opts to continue with public events

Quiet street in Põlva in November.
Quiet street in Põlva in November. Source: ERR

A crisis committee in a South Estonian rural municipality has decided not to ban public events, despite high coronavirus rates.

The Põlva rural municipality, population a little over 13,000, had late last week called on Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) to put in place more stringent restrictions nationwide, on the grounds that there was no physical barrier preventing the virus from spreading nationwide, but appeared to back down when the head of government argued for instigating tougher restrictions in the municipality alone.

Reiterating comments he had made earlier on Monday, Georg Pelisaar (Center), the municipality's mayor, said that tougher restrictions would not improve the epidemiological situation, since people travel outside Põlva, including to attend events in Tartu and Võru.

Pelisaar told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) that: "This time we thought that we would not go for stricter measures, and in my opinion, strict measures will only work if it is implemented in one specific territory that is controllable."

The Health Board (Terviseamet) says that family infections are high, particular among extended families; in Põlva County as a whole, around 40 percent of infections are believed to have originated within close family circles.

Tiia Luht, the board's southern regional department chief, said that: "Since we're talking about a high level of family infection, now is certainly not the time to be celebrating birthdays or traditional events, such as this week's Mardipäev. A whole range of celebrations, workshops etc. – these are places that should be closed."

As things stand in Põlva, cultural events – theater shows, concerts etc. in plain English – can go ahead with a maximum of 25 percent audience occupancy, and with all regulations, including proof of coronavirus vaccination and mask-wearing, adhered to.

Local doctor Vaike Meesak, from the village of Kanepi (a separate, though adjacent, municipality – ed.), said that news about the local outbreak of coronavirus has led to a surge in applications to get vaccinated.

"Over the past two weeks I have had 120 people, 15 of whom were getting their first dose, but mostly recipients of a third, booster dose," Meesak said, adding that 10 people getting vaccinated in a week would have been a good haul prior to the outbreak.

A crisis committee in Põlva had last Friday called on the government to establish stricter restrictions nationwide, to which the prime minister responded by saying the tougher restrictions should apply solely to Põlva County.

67 percent of the adult population has been vaccinated with at least one coronavirus shot across Põlva County.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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