Health Board: No new Covid restrictions needed yet

Officials from the Health Board monitoring coronavirus restriction compliance.
Officials from the Health Board monitoring coronavirus restriction compliance. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The Health Board (Terviseamet) is not proposing the government implement any further Covid restrictions at the moment, the board's emergency staff chief doctor, Ragnar Vaiknemets said Wednesday. The government had been discussing potential new restrictions, depending on the results of the measures introduced last week.

Speaking at a Riigikogu state budget control special committee sitting, Vaiknemets said that since the R infection rate had fallen from 1.2 to 1.0 in under a week, this was the primary indicator which suggested no further restrictions were needed.

Also appearing at the sitting, chief doctor at North Estonia Medical Center (PERH), Peep Talving, dispelled rumors that nursing staff were deserting the profession en masse on the grounds of burnout and lack of motivation, though there are nonetheless shortages, he said. He also said he felt some further restrictions were needed for as long as infection rates were not falling.

He said: "When we can see that the infection is not falling, then I personally think that some restrictions are definitely needed," adding the importance of close contacts of infected persons within the family circle remaining quarantined.

At the same time, this might need promoting from recommendation to restriction, Talving said.

"It can be recommended, but these recommendations do not work much in Estonia," he said.

Talving also said that one of the main areas put on pause again, due to the high Covid rates – scheduled treatments – may continue to mount, when compounded with staff shortages.

The waiting list of unfulfilled scheduled treatments could reach 35,000 by year-end, he added.

Another doctor, Jüri Karjagin, senior doctor at Tartu University Hospital and head of the Southern medical district, stressed overwork – with staff working over 300 hours per month compared with the usual 168 hours, a level he called inhumane.

Both doctors emphasized hospital staff expectation that individuals paly their part too, by getting vaccinated. Talving said he had witnessed no negative side effects from vaccinations, while Karjagin pointed out the need not to be too complacent when figures start to fall – as happened in late summer, for instance.

As to Covid hospitalization numbers overall, Ragner Vaiknemets of the Health Board said that the current figure of around 600 (563 as of Wednesday - ed.) is likely to remain in place in the immediate future, perhaps falling to 500 or below later on, meaning end-of-month at the earliest.

Peep Talving pointed out that the situation in Estonian hospitals varies widely

In Haapsalu, for example, as a general hospital, there is no scope for taking on additional staff, meaning all scheduled treatments will be off if Covid cases continue to rise.

Karjagin said that while no new restrictions are needed, the government should have a clear contingency plan in place in case the situation does worsen again, rather than spending two weeks discussing the issue.

The latest round of restrictions came into effect at the beginning of last week, and saw proof of negative test results no longer an acceptable means of gaining entry to public events and venues (save for under-18s), mask-wearing mandatory in public places such as stores, and the requirement for school-children to rapid test at home, three times per week.

Last week, the government had been working on a potential new restrictions package, but said that this would hinge on the effects of the measures implemented from Monday, November 1. At present, hospitalizations, which exceeded the 600-mark late last week, are falling, and as noted R has fallen to 1.0.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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