Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) on Thursday introduced the Estonian government to the COVID-19 preparedness plan for the upcoming COVID season, which is aimed at keeping society as open as possible.
"The main keyword is broad-based contribution," Kiik said at Thursday's government press conference. "If we all act consciously, then the premise exists that we'll be able to hold society as open as possible during the next wave."
The plan nonetheless notes that should the need arise, the state legal system must be prepared to implement restrictions again as quickly and efficiently as possible.
According to Kiik, Estonia must be prepared for new variants as well as new waves of COVID. He believes, however, that both Estonian society and its healthcare sector will be better prepared for them now.
"Some three quarters of our adult population is vaccinated, and nearly 90 percent have developed antibodies," he explained. "Hospitals have several drugs against COVID-19 already, preparedness plans, personal protective equipment (PPE). We have various additional digital solutions, including for facilitating family doctors' work as well as saving patients' time. First-line treatments are coming as well."
The health minister said that a fourth COVID vaccine dose ahead of virus season will likely be on the agenda as well, starting with the elderly and people in risk groups.
According to the preparedness plan, vaccination against the COVID-19 virus will remain voluntary. In conditions of high infection risk, however, the partial reintroduction of COVID passes will not be ruled out.
The Ministry of Education and Research intends to ensure a supply of COVID-19 antigen rapid tests for public educational institutions as well as organize for testing. In non-formal education, recreational activities and youth work, the government intends to support the continuation of activity in order to support children and youths' participation in these activities and thereby also their mental health.
According to the preparedness plan, in order to improve Estonia's preparedness for pandemics in the longer term, the Health Board needs to significantly increase its capacity for infectious disease monitoring and prevention.
In its COVID preparedness plan, the Estonian government considers three risk scenarios likely: a mild scenario, a serious scenario and a new pandemic.
In a live appearance on ERR's "Otse uudistemajast" on Wednesday, Health Board director Birgit Lao said that currently, the most likely to manifest in Estonia is the mild scenario.
Editor: Aili Vahtla