Council: More control over compliance needed

Estonia’s COVID-19 scientific advisory committee met president Alar Karis. PHOTO: FOTO: Mihkel Maripuu

Estonia’s COVID-19 scientific advisory committee recommends ramping up control over compliance with coronavirus measures – masks and the digital Covid certificate. Another proposal concerns issuing short-term certificates of having recovered from the virus to people who have Covid antibodies.

Head of the council, professor of virology at the University of Tartu Irja Lutsar said that the advisory chamber brought to the government’s attention the need to monitor compliance with measures more closely – whether people wear a mask indoors and can produce digital vaccination certificates. “Personal observation suggests most people do not wear a mask when shopping, while many establishments fail to check patrons’ certificates or offer rapid testing,” Lutsar said. “People have asked me for my certificate even after recognizing me – a good example of responsible behavior.”

Compliance control needs to be more effective

Lutsar said that owners of entertainment and cultural establishments must comply with the rules to avoid their premises facilitating Covid outbreaks. She added that while the council is deliberating whether to recommend distancing rules, people should already maintain social distance. “People who are ill or whose child is ill would do well to stay home instead of waiting for the school to send the child home,” Lutsar said, adding that everyone exhibiting cold symptoms should stay in whether they have COVID-19 or not.

The council also proposed a temporary solution for people who cannot prove they have recovered from the virus. This would see people who can prove they have Covid antibodies issued a digital certificate that would be valid until they get vaccinated. “It would be for people who have not done a PCR test but have antibodies. However, the certificate would also have to include a future date of vaccination,” Lutsar explained, adding that such a system can only be put in place in Estonia. “The scientific council has not discussed whether these proposals are legally feasible,” she also said.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said she is in favor of additional restrictions for people who have not been vaccinated, for example, moving unvaccinated people back on treatment queues if planned treatments need to be dialed back because of Covid. The PM also expects the police to exercise more effective control over compliance with the obligation to wear a mask. “What do I want? I would avoid locking down society. I want children to be able to continue attending school, for the economy to keep going and for our hospitals not to collapse. That is why I am in favor of additional restrictions for unvaccinated people,” Kallas said on the Vikerraadio “Stuudios on peaminister” program. “One proposal is that while doctors must help everyone who needs it, people waiting for surgery who have not vaccinated could be moved back should the situation deteriorate and planned treatments be dialed back. That queues would be changed at their expense,” the PM said.

Molecular biologist at the University of Tartu Aare Abroi told Postimees that people should behave sensibly and limit their activities – especially those who have children attending school. “Parents who want their children to continue attending school and hobby school must minimize their own contacts. Otherwise, the healthcare system will be brought to its knees in three weeks,” Abroi said. “We have reached a level of infection in society where both vaccinated and unvaccinated people need to limit their contacts.”

Two weeks of home office

The biologist also said that companies should consider having people work from home for two weeks. “Spending a few weeks in the home office is preferable to facing much tougher coronavirus restrictions three weeks from now,” he explained. “It is the only soft solution, the rest are tougher and would paralyze society to a far greater degree.”