While the number of coronavirus patients has been falling in recent weeks, this downtrend has now ended and cases of illness have proportionally grown the most in Harju County, said Urmas Sule, chief of medicine for the Health Board's crisis headquarters. Hospital outbreaks, like the ones currently in Viljandi and Jõgeva, are very difficult to avoid, Sule added.
"Recent weeks or even a month have seen a stable downtrend in the need for hospitalization among Covid patients. However, recent days have rather seen stabilization and even a slight increase. Therefore, the decrease seems to be behind us and we are standing by to see what follows," Sule said.
"Looking at data, [the situation in] hospitals and by region, we see that while illness was previously gravitating toward Ida-Viru County – fastest growth in Narva and its vicinity – the last few days have seen more cases proportionally in Harju County than elsewhere."
He added that, luckily, need for stage three intensive care is lower than it has been in the past.
Hospital outbreaks in Viljandi and Jõgeva
Sule said that two hospitals have ongoing Covid outbreaks – Viljandi and Jõgeva.
He said that hospitals are scrambling to isolate patients and provide symptomatic treatment to those who need it.
"As of this morning, we have 74 patients who have been infected or diagnosed in hospitals, with the total number of patients hospitalized with Covid at over 200," Sule said.
Hospital infections difficult to completely prevent
The Health Board's crisis headquarters medical chief said that cases where people initially test negative upon arriving in hospital but then test positive two days later are incredibly difficult to avoid.
"Hospitals are taking precautions several orders of magnitude stronger than the nationwide restrictions. But with a disease where the person is the most infectious two days before exhibiting symptoms there is always the risk that someone slips through the net, and we cannot isolate hospitals from the rest of the country in full. While theoretically possible, it would be humanly and socially unacceptable," he admitted.
"Ideally, people coming to the hospital could be put in an isolation zone and separated from others, but it is extremely difficult to do with every single patient. It would require us to dial back our treatment capacity, and we would effectively be unable to help non-Covid patients."
Three hospitals continue to treat Covid patients in Tallinn
Sule said that heads of Tallinn hospitals late last week discussed how to organize work with Harju County registering more new cases.
It was agreed that the West Tallinn Central Hospital, East Tallinn Central Hospital and the North Estonia Medical Center will continue treating Covid patients, Sule said.
"We have plans for which hospitals could deescalate their capacities and when. Ideally, we would only treat Covid patients in infectious diseases wards and ICU beds, while we are still far from that today," Sule said.
He added that there would have to be fewer than 100 Covid patients for that to be possible, while it also depends on where the disease is more prevalent and whether there are serious regional outbreaks.
Editor: Marcus Turovski