New members of government's Covid advisory council announced

Toivo Maimets.
Toivo Maimets. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The head of the government's scientific council, cell biology professor at the University of Tartu Toivo Maimets, introduced the new members of the government's coronavirus advisory board - dubbed the Scientific Council - on Thursday. The new council will start its work from next week.

The members of the council are: Head of the Infection Control Department of the North Estonian Regional Hospital (PERH) and Senior Physician Mait Altmes, professor of psychophysiology Jaanus Harro, professor of family medicine and the head of Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health Ruth Kalda, professor of molecular immunology at the University of Tartu and Head of the Department of Biomedicine, Institute of Biomedical and Transplant Medicine Pärt Peterson, Tartu co-professor of virology Margus Varjak and professor of communication research at the University of Tartu Triin Vihalemm.

"We have lived with the coronavirus and gotten to know the virus for two years, but the virus is very dynamic. For that reason, it's very important for the government that we could base our decisions on scientific information. The role of the council is to offer the government the input," a statement read.

Toivo Maimets said that when preparing the new council, he paid attention to the fields of immunology, virology and social sciences being represented, as well as representatives of medical science and public health in general.

"We are starting to work at a time when the coronavirus omicron strain has conquered the world and the latest scientific data is constantly changing. We will give the first overview to the government next week," Maimets said.

The Scientific Council prepares up-to-date reviews and analyzes for the government, which reflect Estonian and international scientific developments related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and also advises the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Health Board (Terviseamet) or other agencies involved in resolving the crisis, as appropriate. The Scientific Council also develops answers to questions raised by the government or members of the government.

The replacement of previous Scientific Council head, Professor Irja Lutsar, named citizen of the year 2021, was announced just before Christmas, in what appeared a sudden development, though had reportedly been under discussion at governmental level for some time.

The council was originally set up by the Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition when the coronavirus first arrived in spring 2020, but had faced criticism over engaging in politics and making its recommendations publicly known ahead of these being discussed at cabinet level.

This had the effect of restrictions being made known before they had been signed off on by the government, which caused confusion, particularly when the final version of the restrictions differed from those first suggested.

The council also was sometimes at loggerheads with the state Health Board (Terviseamet), particularly earlier on in the pandemic.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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