TALLINN - In her Independence Day speech on Wednesday, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid urged everyone to get vaccinated as soon as the opportunity presents itself and commended the people who have lent a hand in the fight against the coronavirus.
The coronavirus is robbing the Estonian people of a sizeable body of our elders' wisdom, the president said.
"And not only that part which is permanent. It has also taken away the hours we now cannot spend sitting face to face with our older relatives and friends, enjoying a simple cup of tea. I have felt the absence of those conversations acutely. Everyday things spoken with wisdom are often a crucial source of support and guidance, even if we do not realize it under ordinary circumstances. We have now. And we are that much richer for it in turn," she said.
Kaljulaid noted that not all of the bad can be turned to good and that loss of life is irrevocable.
"Lost weeks of school cannot be regained. Things one would've liked to discuss at length with their grandmother are forgotten by the time we're able to visit again. But hard times can make us better. And good people in Estonia can make bad times better," she added.
The head of state said that every person in Estonia working together can lead the state out of this crisis.
"Yes, vaccination is voluntary, but even now, at a time when there is still not enough for everyone, there are too many people who could receive the vaccine but do not wish to. We must trust the scientists and doctors who have declared the vaccines to be safe!" she said. "I am asking all people of Estonia -- let's protect ourselves, our children, our jobs, and our families' welfare by getting vaccinated as soon as the opportunity presents itself!"
The president commended those who contributed to the fight against the coronavirus.
"Sander Teras, an 11th-grader at the Saaremaa Coeducational Gymnasium, lent a hand at the local nursing home last spring to provide real care. It is inspiring to think about him and others just like him. They went because help was needed. It's as simple as that. These people are role models to me, " she said.
There are also many things in governance that simply need to be done, according to the president.
"There's no avoiding it -- action is necessary. You cannot ignore the battle against evil in our society, such as domestic violence. We cannot put off helping those who have suffered mentally or physically to get back onto their feet. We cannot delay a green revolution, because our children's futures are otherwise endangered. We cannot abandon efforts to establish a joint Estonian school system, even though such decisions may be uncomfortable at the present. We cannot allow the development gap between the capital and the rest of Estonia to split ever wider," she said.
Talk does nothing to fix these things, Kaljulaid noted.
"We need decisions, even if they bring along temporary confusion and result in dropping popularity figures. Voters are sure to understand, if not straight away," she added.
By now, we’ve gotten used to giving thought to life's fragility each and every morning, the president said.
"I hope we hold on to that empathy for a very long time to come. We've witnessed the true, strong, and caring nature of our medical workers, more outstanding than in many wealthier countries. Our health care has been relatively inexpensive to run in comparison with many other welfare societies. What we receive for that expense is even unbelievable. I hope that one day, we will have not only the most effective, but the most empathetic health care system in the entire world," she said.
"Every day, 24 people in Estonia are diagnosed with some form of cancer, and 11 die from it. The prevention and treatment of mental health issues doesn't even meet our basic needs. This has stood out more starkly in the pandemic, of course -- perhaps we can now grasp how far we have yet to go. Those are just two gaps of many in our security net, through which anyone can fall," she added.
Health care encompasses much more than treating illness, the head of state noted.
"It includes constant support for disabled children to prevent their conditions from compounding. A child with diabetes or a metabolic disorder who is on a special diet is deserving of aid even when they can lead a dignified life thanks to costly measures and their parents' perpetual care and attention. And the families of sick children and adults alike need to know with unwavering certainty that assistance will always be available, no matter under what law it is provided," the president said.