TALLINN – Lauri Laanemets, deputy chairman of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE), said that the Estonian government has misled people about coronavirus testing, creating the expectation that anyone with symptoms will get tested with a referral from a family doctor, but in reality, the circle of people to be tested is strictly limited.
"If Estonia did not buy tests at the right time and there is a shortage of them now, then this is what must be said, too. Ministers have promised extensive testing to the public. At the same time, family doctors are unable to do it for the majority of the population, because the rules do not allow it. Instead of explaining the shortage of tests, the government is instead attempting to hide behind family doctors," Laanemets said.
The instructions issued by the Health Board set strict rules for family doctors. In addition to fever, cough and difficulties breathing, the patient must also meet one of the following conditions -- they must be over 80 years old, have a severe chronic illness, be the employee or resident of a care home or a front-line employee -- that is a doctor, police officer or such --, in order to be tested.
According to Laanemets, honest communication will ensure that people obey health protection requirements. Unnecessary expectations will lead to disappointment and, in turn, indifference, which will make controlling the virus much more difficult.
"The state must provide testing for anyone suspected of having the illness. If necessary, additional tests must be bought, even at double the price. Instead of fattening a state-owned company with 125 million euros in the midst of a crisis in order to build a plant in a shale oil slump, tests could be bought instead with this money," he added.
Many people are staying home for half a month under the suspicion of having the virus, even though they may not be sick. As it is not possible to test, it causes difficulties for entrepreneurs and stifles the Estonian economy unnecessarily.
"The solution is honest communication and testing as many people as possible. It is important to say that family doctors do not have the freedom to test and they must follow a directive that defines the kind of people at risk. A large number of additional tests have to be purchased," Laanemets added.
According to the deputy chairman of SDE, misleading communication is creating unnecessary confusion and annoyance in the current situation.
"Estonia is unable to comply with the WHO and virologists' recommendations that coronavirus tests be performed on all individuals with symptoms. If we do not have the information, we will not know how to assess the spread of the virus and as a result, the Estonian economy will suffer the most," Laanemets said.