The two coalition partners, the Reform Party and the Center Party, differ on what to do next with coronavirus restrictions, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Monday evening, with Center wanting to start as early as next week, and Reform urging caution, forecasting further growth in infection rates. Center would start with lifting the proof of vaccination certification requirement, currently in place.
Health minister Tanel Kiik (Center) told AK that: "Our position is based on the fact that hospitals' workloads have stabilized in recent weeks, while the proportion of delta strain infections has fallen to two to three per cent, significantly lower than previously thought, so we see it as reasonable to first lose the proof of Covid status requirement, from February 7, and then move forward from there step-by-step, by relaxing other restrictions."
In some areas, restrictions cause more harm than good, making gradually lifting them justified, he said. The current rules on coronavirus close contacts' quarantine are among those which need revising, Kiik added.
The Omicron wave is reaching its peak in Estonia this week and will likely be surpassed in the same week, Kiik added.
Reform's Riigikogu group chair Mart Võrklaev urged caution.
He said: "We need to wait for the views of the scientific council on what steps can be taken," referring to the government's coronavirus advisory body.
"These and their implications need to be considered. In the current situation, where we are seeing a rise in terms of both infection and hospital burdens, we need to continue to be careful," he continued.
"Life will move towards normality as fast as possible. We all hope that Covid figures will stabilize, and hospitalizations will stabilize," he continued.
Võrklaev said that a statement made by Center on Sunday was borne of a desire to make a political point.
The Reform-Center cabinet is on Tuesday set to discuss possible changes to the coronavirus regulations in schools. Lifting restrictions was debated by the coalition council on Monday, but no consensus was reached, AK reported.
Tanel Kiik said on Monday that the government should set a plan for lifting coronavirus restrictions through the month of February, adding that the mask-wearing requirement should remain in place.
The coalition said Sunday it is due to discuss relaxing Estonia's coronavirus restrictions in the coming week, though not all regulations will be lifted at the same time.
Estonia's nearest neighbors are seeing similar discussions.
In Finland, Prime Minister Sanna Marin has said that all Covid-related restrictions are to be dismantled through February, the English-language portal of public broadcaster Yle reports.
Latvia's Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš said Monday that his country is, similarly to Estonia, mulling easing restrictions. Kariņš said he is planning a meeting with Kaja Kallas and Ingrida Šimonytė, the Lithuanian prime minister, for this Friday, to discuss potential harmonizing of restrictions at a time when Lithuania, too, is considering suspending their coronavirus certificate system, the English-language portal of public broadcaster LSM reports.
Estonia's current Covid restrictions regime entered into force three months ago to the day and has remained unchanged.
Covid figures in Estonia broke the 7,000-mark for a single day's cases for the first time last Saturday, though since then have dropped, to below 5,000 new cases reported Monday.
Editor: Andrew Whyte