Baltic health ministers: We're working in close cooperation to stop spread of virus

  • 2020-03-12
  • LETA/BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Baltic health ministers Tanel Kiik, Ilze Vinkele and Aurelijus Veryga have made a joint statement on curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus, and highlighted the importance of transnational solidarity and cooperation.

The ministers have confirmed the intent to provide mutual assistance in increasing the preparedness of the health care system and coping with a possible outbreak.

"Rapid exchange of information is crucial in tackling cross-border health threats, particularly important is to coordinate activities with our closest neighbors. Over the past few weeks, we have been in close contact with the European commissioner for health, regional director of WHO as well as the health ministers of the member states," Estonian Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik said.

"As health ministers, we highly appreciate the efforts made by the World Health Organisation, the European Commission, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Union member states to protect European citizens. In the present situation, we must show solidarity and work in close cooperation to curb the spread of the virus," he said.

The joint action plan aimed at stopping a COVID-19 outbreak from emerging includes the following activities: sharing information for travellers coming back from or travelling to risk areas; sharing medical and epidemiological information as well as information on measures adopted; exchanging he information provided to the health care and other professionals and to the public.

Also ensured should be smooth and reliable international traffic with necessary precautionary measures taken. Measures taken at internal borders should be based on the assessment of the threat to public health and in close coordination with the neighbouring countries. The three states have also agreed to conduct regular conference calls at expert and at ministerial level.

The ministers express solidarity among the Baltic countries and intention for mutual assistance in their preparedness and response efforts.

EU health ministers have convened twice over the past two months, most recently on March 6. On Feb. 13, the ministers approved of the council's conclusions calling on member states to guarantee that passengers from third states should have at all border inspection points access to information regarding where they should turn to if the need medical assistance. The council underscored that the health care sector must have a clear action plan and the resources required for rapidly providing help to people who either suspect having contracted the virus or have already been infected. The population must also be provided with up-to-date evidence-based information and adequate guidelines on how one should to protect oneself from the infection.

The Health Board estimates the risk of the coronavirus being imported to Estonia to be very high,  the likelihood of limited local transmission medium to high, and the risk of a widespread outbreak to be low, provided that sufficient preventive measures are taken.