State agencies working on fall coronavirus plan

Crowds at a Tallinn tram stop (photo is illustrative).
Crowds at a Tallinn tram stop (photo is illustrative). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Government Office and the Ministry of Social Affairs are working on a plan so that the coronavirus would not take Estonia by surprise again this fall.

The COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Council has been working on analyses of what could happen this fall and putting together a "strategic structure" for the coming fall over the past two weeks, its head Toivo Maimets said.

He said that all major international organizations and EU member states agree that the coronavirus is not going anywhere and that we are looking at another wave after summer.

The infection rate started heading up again in August last year. Maimets said that it is difficult to forecast when the new wave could arrive this year, while he hopes there will be at least a few months to prepare.

Assistant professor of virology Margus Varjak said that while the virus is in decline on the northern hemisphere, the infection rate will start going up again south of the equator, and because vaccination rates are lower there, especially in Africa, the emergence of new strains needs to be closely monitored. The aggressive Omicron strain of the coronavirus started in South Africa.

Dr. Mait Altmets, head of the infectious diseases unit of the North Estonia Medical Center (PERH), said hospitals will be better prepared for adding beds this season, with labor shortage still the number one problem.

"We are short on caregivers and nurses. We are trying to employ war refugees where possible and various medical institutions are in the process of training people. We are also looking to use interns and students where possible," Altmets said.

He added that EU recovery resources can be used to create an additional 150 Covid beds in Estonia and that wearing a mask should become the norm during the cold season.

Maimets also said that it needs to be kept in mind that society is "really fed up" with restrictions after two coronavirus winters that could cause problems combating infections in the future.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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