TALLINN – Speaking about the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Estonia at a press conference on Monday, Urmas Sule, medical chief at the crisis management headquarters of the Health Board, said that by last weekend three negative records were hit in Estonia.
"Luckily, we haven't had a day when 100 people would have needed treatment in hospital, but we have been very close to it. Starting from today, 626 people are getting treatment in hospital. When we look at the figures for the past 24 hours, of the 63 people who were hospitalized, 46 are in hospitals of the northern region and the lion's share of them from Harju County," Sule said, adding that according to estimates, this is not the ceiling.
"We are actively hiring additional workforce. Every hospital is doing it a bit differently, which is understandable. This is a serious challenge," he said.
Hanna Sepp, head of the infection control department at the Health Board, said that during last week the number of new infection cases hit 9,750.
"The rate of increase is 22 percent and this shows a nationwide epidemic spread," Sepp said.
The highest spreads of the virus are in Saaremaa, Harju County, East-Viru County and West-Viru County, and slightly lower in other counties and also in South Estonia, she said. The largest age group in terms of infections is 15 to 30-year-olds, meaning the group in which the numbers of social contacts are the biggest.
By now, authorities in Estonia have identified 178 cases of the UK strain of the virus and nine cases of the South African strain.
"The spread of the UK strain is continuous, but it is not to blame for the infection rates having risen so much," Sepp said, adding that the biggest numbers of infections occur within family and at work in places where remote working is not possible. The ratio of getting infected from an unknown source has remained in the region of 30 percent.
Sepp said that the situation is very serious and one may get infected everywhere.
"It's very important that restrictions are observed," she said.
Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik said that the authorities have to deal with three things simultaneously -- bringing down infection rates, testing, and sequencing the virus strains.
"We are addressing all the three challenges. At the same time, it is clear that in none of them the crisis has peaked. There's plenty of work to do and the crisis will definitely continue for months," the minister said.
Kiik said that therefore, the drafting of a supplementary budget is inevitable.
"We have also charted additional resources. The healthcare sector, for which it is not possible to hire workforce from the street. We have communicated with higher education establishments, the medical chief, to chart nursing students of the past few years so it would possible for them to contribute at COVID-19 departments. I know that the University of Tartu is making preparations too for involving students in the work of treatment of patients," Kiik said.