Estonian social minister participating in extraordinary meeting of EU health ministers

  • 2020-03-06
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Health ministers of the European Union are to convene for an extraordinary meeting in Brussels on Friday to exchange information on the present situation regarding the novel coronavirus COVID-19, also participating in the meeting will be Estonia's Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik.

Topics to be discussed at the meeting include opportunities for cooperation to boost member states' coronavirus preparedness and to coordinate the use of measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

"In order to cope with this cross-border health threat, close cooperation and rapid exchange of information between member states is crucial. Thus far, cooperation has proved successful in the European Union. We have been in continuous contact with Latvia, Lithuania and Finland to keep one another updated on the latest developments and steps taken to halt the spread of the virus," Kiik said.

"All our activities are at present directed at stopping the further spread of the virus. At the same time, we are improving the readiness of the health care system in case the virus should start spreading more extensively. An overview of the global situation will be given at the meeting by the WHO regional director for Europe; we will also get new information on whether or not the anti-coronavirus measures taken in other EU states have been successful," he said.

The sitting marks the second occasion when EU health ministers have convened for an extraordinary meeting during the past moth. 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 high, and the likelihood of local transmission medium. To avoid contracting the virus, people are advised to follow the usual hygiene rules: wash their hands and avoid contact with people with symptoms of a respiratory illness. 

After returning from a risk area, a person should monitor their health for 14 days. If a fever, cough or breathing difficulties occur, a doctor must be contacted immediately or a call made to the family doctor hotline at 1220. In case of more severe symptoms, an ambulance should be called. 

There are reasonable grounds for suspecting a coronavirus infection if a person has both recently traveled to an area affected by the virus and is also exhibiting the corresponding symptoms.