Covid certification requirements will not be lifted from February 21, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says, citing too-high rates of hospitalization as a result of symptomatic Covid.
Speaking at the regular Thursday press conference, Kallas said: "The average number of symptomatic Covid patients admitted to hospital over the past ten days stands at 39, meaning we will not reach 25 by February 21."
"This is simply not possible, you should know that. The burden on the medical system is very high, both in terms of the number of patients and the number of hospital staff," Kallas went on.
"Currently, the number of severely ill Covid patients in hospitals is close to 300, while the Health Board estimates that there will be 500 serious Covid cases in hospitals by mid-February," she continued.
Turning the situation into a political "race" would help noone, she added.
"The major problem is that everyone wants to be seen as being good people, bringing the good news that the restrictions will be lifted. This has meant that the pace of vaccination has slowed down, as the public don't see the need for it if restrictions will go away right away."
"You have to get vaccinated to prevent the virus," the prime minister added, noting that comparing Estonia with Denmark, whose restrictions have been lifted, is not very meaningful given that country has a more than 80-percent vaccination rate compared with Estonia's 63 percent.
The disparity between Denmark and Estonia is even starker when comparing booster figures. 61 percent of Denmark's population have received a third or booster dose against Covid; in Estonia the figure is half that.
The government had previously agreed to lift the requirement for certification of vaccination or recovery from Covid at events, venues and the like, provided the daily rate of hospitalizations stood at 25 or lower as an average for the preceding 10 days, by February 17. While this is a week away, Kallas noted it is already clear the target will not be met.
Had the 25 benchmark been met, the certification restriction would have been lifted four days later, on February 21 and just in time for independence day on February 24. Outdoor events will not, however, require certification proof from February 14, the same date on which certification in schools is to be ditched.
Health Board (Tervisamet) forecasts state that while infection rates will start to fall over the next few weeks, the burden on hospitals will continue to rise as the Omicron variant starts affecting the elderly.
Editor: Andrew Whyte