APRIL BLOG: Coronavirus in Estonia

As the coronavirus hits Estonia and the Estonian government has declared an emergency situation and, as of 17 March, closed its borders, Estonian World informs you on the latest developments in the country and brings you some of the local as well as international opinions on the matter.

9 April 2020 – 1,207 coronavirus cases in Estonia

As of today, there are 1,207 confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Estonia, according to the country’s Health Board; 134 people are hospitalised, nine are in intensive care and in a critical condition; 24 people have died. Eighty-three previously hospitalised patients have recovered. The Estonian government declared an emergency situation on 12 March and closed its borders on 17 March.

The virus is transmitted from person to person through droplet spread. The incubation period of the virus is about two to 14 days, with an average of five days. It is not yet known exactly how effectively the virus spreads and how long the contagious period lasts. The symptoms are flu-like: fever 38°C (100.4°F), cough, difficulty breathing.

9 April 2020 – Drug maker donates Trump’s favourite drug with questionable effect

Drug manufacturer Teva Baltics is donating 2,400 pills of the malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, to Estonia, which is to be used to treat the novel coronavirus patients. This drug is also one that US president Donald Trump has repeatedly advocated for, despite warnings from his own health officials that there is little data to support its widespread use as a treatment against the virus.

Hydroxychloroquine is a drug that has been for decades used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. There have been some studies with cultured cells that have found the drug could block the coronavirus from invading cells, but drugs that conquer viruses in test tubes don’t always work in the human body. Moreover, studies have found hydroxychloroquine has failed to prevent or treat the flu or other viruses.

9 April 2020 – Estonia to start mass antibody tests, first in Saaremaa

The Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Reinsalu, today said on Facebook that the government had decided to arrange mass testing for the novel coronavirus and the first county to participate will be the island of Saaremaa. “Based on these results we’ll initiate mass testing with research in the entire country. It’s a necessary step to contain the spread of the virus and return to normal life,” Reinsalu said.

The minister of social affairs, Tanel Kiik, added, according to Postimees, that the government is first looking at testing for the antibodies; however, the tests to be initiated in Saaremaa will be chosen by the social ministry, the Health Board and the COVID-19 science council. “The testing will be voluntary. The difference is that we’re talking about antibody tests, so that the person doesn’t need to have the symptoms when testing,” Kiik noted. The antibody test will show whether the person has already had the disease.

The COVID-19 antibody tests involves drawing the patient’s blood. Photo by Creators Collective on Unsplash.

9 April 2020 – Tallinn uses drones to inform people out and about

The Tallinn city government has started using drones in parks, beaches, bogs and other popular sports and walking grounds to “inform people about proper behaviour”. According to the deputy mayor, Kalle Klandorf, the purpose of the drones is “certainly not violating people’s privacy”, but, above all, it is used as an “aid measure” in combating the spread of the coronavirus. “Drones are equipped with speakers which allow us to give out the message about the current situation and 2+2 requirement in three languages – Estonian, Russian and English,” Klandorf said in a statement.

The drone surveillance is carried out by the Tallinn Municipal Police Board in cooperation with the USS Security, a private company.

A drone (Pexels).

9 April 2020 – Study: a two-metre distance may not be enough

A study by the Belgian Leuven University and the Dutch Technical University of Eindhoven has concluded that the typical one-two-metre distance between people may not be enough when outside. “The typical social distancing rule which many countries apply between one-two metres seems effective when you are standing still inside or even outside with low wind. But when you go for a walk, run or bike ride you better be more careful. When someone during a run breathes, sneezes or coughs, those particles stay behind in the air. The person running behind you in the so-called slipstream goes through this cloud of droplets,” according to the study.

The scientists say that, for walking, the distance of people moving in the same direction in one line should be at least four to five metres; for running and slow biking, 10 metres; and for hard biking, at least 20 metres.

Even the former Estonian prime minister, the current MEP, Andrus Ansip has drawn attention to the study:

9 April 2020 – Why social distancing is important – the example of a Chicago “super-spreader”

A Chicago native has turned out to be the perfect example of why social distancing in the time of the novel coronavirus is extremely important. The person, already confirmed to be infected with the virus – now called a “super-spreader” – went to a family dinner, then a funeral and then to a birthday party. The person met with other people, shared hugs and kisses, and ended up spreading the virus to at least 15 other people, three of whom have since died. One of the people who died had even shared take-out food with the “super-spreader”.

The cluster of cases has now become the subject of a report, released by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC for short. The report stresses the need for social distancing to stop the spread of the virus, even within families. It points to a series of gatherings that all occurred “before major social distancing policies were implemented”, each attended by a common patient who experienced only mild symptoms. “Super-spreading events have played a significant role in transmission of other recently emerged coronaviruses,” according to the report.

The patients in the cluster ranged in age from five to 86 years old. The three who died were all older than 60 and had at least one underlying cardiovascular or respiratory medical condition. The report is a stark reminder of how the coronavirus can quickly spread through innocent gatherings. Three people believed to have been infected by the “super-spreader” at the birthday party might have then passed the coronavirus on days later to another person at church, with the passing of an offering plate.

9 April 2020 – An Estonian small town has possibly the most expensive face masks in Europe

A store in the Estonian small town of Elva is selling a pack of 50 face masks for €129, which may very well be the highest price in Europe. Journalist Vambola Paavo is describing the experience in the local newspaper, Elva Uudised (Elva News): “We stepped into the Furniture and Tech store on Kesk Street. Its owner is COOP. We asked if we could get a pack of face masks and the store attendant said, ‘Of course’, and pointed to the shelf. We didn’t believe our eyes.”

“One pack cost €129 and had 50 masks. Market economy. When there’s demand and enough buyers, you can charge this outrageous price.” The store attendant told the journalist that on Tuesday, they sold two packs, on Wednesday they had no interest. The store also sold the masks by one unit, for €2.58 per. The journalist told another newspaper, Postimees, that in Italy, face masks have been sold for €60 per a box of 50, and Italy’s situation is far worse than Estonia’s in terms of the coronavirus contagion.

Surgical masks. Photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash.

9 April 2020 – Estonian unicorn Bolt requests a loan from the state

The Estonian ridesharing company, Bolt, hard hit by the coronavirus crisis, has asked the Estonian government to step in to save the company. Its founders, Markus and Martin Villig, have sent a letter to the Estonian government, requesting a loan of €50 million – or a loan guarantee for the same amount – from the state for the company to survive. Kaimar Karu, Estonia’s minister for foreign trade and IT, said at a government’s press conference on 9 April that the cabinet will discuss “different options” and indicated that the government could acquire a stake in Bolt, as one of the options.

Markus Villig, a cofounder of Bolt (Bolt).

9 April 2020 – Estonia supports the world’s poorest countries to contain the coronavirus

Estonia is allocating €100,000 for containing the spread and lessen the consequences of the coronavirus in the world’s poorest countries.

9 April 2020 – Scientists: the virus may not fade in warm weather

Many are hoping that once the summer hits the Northern Hemisphere, the novel coronavirus will fade in hot weather like some viral diseases to. But the American National Academy of Sciences says in a public report sent to the White House that people shouldn’t get their hopes up. After reviewing a variety of research reports, the scientists concluded that the number of studies, of varying quality of evidence, simply do not offer a clear forecast of what will happen to the spread of the novel coronavirus in the summer and therefore, it may not diminish significantly. “Given that countries currently in ‘summer’ climates, such as Australia and Iran, are experiencing rapid virus spread, a decrease in cases with increases in humidity and temperature elsewhere should not be assumed.”

9 April 2020 – An Estonian initiative grows into a global community to tackle the coronavirus crisis

At the initiative of the Estonian startup community, over a million participants across the world are expected to attend an online hackathon, the Global Hack, from 9-12 April; the goal of the four-day tech marathon is to create solutions that help people stop the spread of the coronavirus and stimulate the economy.

9 April 2020 – An update from across the pond

Estonian World’s deputy editor-in-chief, Chicago-based Sten Hankewitz, is reporting from across the pond: “New York City lost a thousand people within the last 36 hours and, as of now, 4,260 people in the Big Apple have succumbed to the novel coronavirus. Over 80,000 people in the city have been infected. In the entire New York state, 779 people died in the 24 hours between yesterday and today. The state has lost 6,268 people to the virus, which is more than twice as many people as the state lost in the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. And New York state now has 151,061 people infected, which is by far the highest number compared with any country in the world.

“Looking closer to home, it has emerged that the Cook County Jail in Chicago, one of the largest in the country, has emerged as the largest-known source of US coronavirus infections. According to the New York Times, at least 353 cases can be linked to the jail – 238 inmates and 115 staff members have tested positive. In the entire state of Illinois, 15,078 people have been confirmed infected and 462 people have died. The authorities in the city of Chicago, meanwhile, have found another source of potential coronavirus contagion – liquor stores. The mayor, Lori Lightfoot, issued an order to close the city’s booze stores every day at 9PM from tomorrow onwards, because “far too many have been congregating at stores that sell alcohol, especially in the evening hour”, Lightfoot said.

“And people’s movement has been limited in the city once again, too. A 350-acre cemetery not far from where I live has been closed down and is accessible “by appointment only”. The cemetery was like a godsend to many people; it’s big enough for accommodate hundreds of walkers who more often than not don’t even see each other. Its roads are wide enough that even if someone does walk past you, you can safely pass them at a distance far longer than the recommended six feet. It’s the one place where people could still do long walks safely and completely obey the social distancing rules. But as of yesterday, either the operator of the cemetery, Dignity Memorial, or the owner of it, the City of Chicago, decided to close it entirely. Evidently, it’s much more reasonable to let people clog the streets and not abide by the social distancing rules than to let people walk in peace and quiet and keep their distance from everyone.”

8 April 2020 – Over 60,000 people have died of the coronavirus in Europe

Over 60,000 people have died of the novel coronavirus in Europe – this means over 70 per cent of the global deaths have occurred in Europe. The most deaths in Europe have occurred in Italy where 17,669 people have succumbed to the virus; Spain follows with 14,673 people dead.

In many of the European countries, the death rate of the coronavirus patients lingers around 10% or even more, unlike elsewhere. In Italy, there are 139,422 confirmed cases and 17,669 deaths (12.67%); in Spain, 146,690 cases and 14,673 deaths (10%); in the UK, 61,474 cases and 7,110 deaths (11.57%); in the Netherlands, 20,678 cases and 2,255 deaths (10.9%). In comparison, the United States has 404,352 confirmed cases and 14,262 deaths (3.5%); Canada has 18,447 cases and 381 deaths (2%); and South Korea has 10,384 cases and only 200 deaths (1.92%)

One country in Europe stands out with a surprisingly low death rate – Germany with its 110,698 cases and 2,192 deaths (1.98%).

8 April 2020 – The Kremlin claims the Estonian purchase of protective gear was Russian humanitarian aid

The Kremlin’s propaganda media has claimed that the Estonian and Latvian joint purchase of protective gear from China was, instead, Russian humanitarian aid.

A Volga-Dnepr Airlines’ II-76 aircraft landing at the Tallinn Airport on 2 April 2020.

8 April 2020 – Estonian company offers its telemedicine platform to doctors worldwide for free

The Estonian telemedicine company, Viveo Health, has made its platform freely accessible to all doctors worldwide to fight the novel coronavirus and keep people safe as they communicate remotely. “This will enable many doctors, even the ones who are retired, to start working again and do it securely while staying physically away from their patients,” the company said in a statement. The platform also allows doctors to receive patient health concern offline, authenticate them and chat, call or have video conferences.

8 April 2020 – Doctor: the severity of the coronavirus depends on lung damage

The administrator of the COVID-19 department at the East Tallinn Central Hospital, Dr Alice Lill, said in an interview with Postimees that the severity of the novel coronavirus depends on how badly it affects the person’s lungs. “In a very severe case, the pneumonia will result in breathing difficulties,” she said, adding that younger people usually have milder symptoms and feel like they have a cold; however, they are still carriers of the virus and will infect others. “Some younger people can get seriously sick,” she noted. “Based on other countries’ statistics, younger patients may make up 30-40 per cent of all of those infected.

The doctor explained that only people who have severe symptoms – high fever, pneumonia and difficulty breathing – belong in the hospital. “A patient with a fever who feels sick and coughs, has muscle aches, doesn’t need to be hospitalised,” Lill said. “At the same time, when the person has been sick for days and turns worse – the fever comes back, has difficulty breathing – they should call an ambulance. Usually this happens on the seventh or eighth day of infection.” For home remedies, she suggested paracetamol to lower the fever, home rest, drinking lots of fluids and treat themselves the same way as with any other virus.

A CT scan image of a 44-year-old coronavirus patient’s lungs and the damage the virus caused. Photo by Qian L, Yu J, Shi H.

8 April 2020 – Estonian cyber security company offers a free cyber hygiene training course

Cyber threat intelligence community has seen a steep rise of COVID-19 pandemic-related cyber incidents, which unfortunately also involve first responders, hospitals and law enforcement agencies. The Estonian-based cyber security company, Cybexer Technologies, is now offering free cyber hygiene training.

8 April 2020 – Lufthansa: we’re losing €1 million per hour

Carsten Spohr, the CEO of Lufthansa, the second-largest airline in Europe in terms of passengers carried, is seeking state aid in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Austria as the coronavirus crisis has forced to ground almost all of its planes and the company fears it will persist longer than thought. Spohr said the company had a liquidity buffer of over €4 billion, but some of that was owed to customers that have paid for now-cancelled flights, and the airline was currently losing cash at a rate of €1 million per hour.

Fifteen aircraft of Lufthansa parked at Berlin Brandenburg Airport due to the cancellation of 95 percent of all flights of the airline. Photo by Bautsch, shared under CC0 1.0 Creative Commons licence.

8 April 2020 – UN agency: 195 million will be jobless due to the crisis

The International Labour Organisation, a United Nations agency, is saying the coronavirus crisis is expected to wipe out 6.7 per cent of working hours globally in the second quarter of 2020 – equivalent to 195 million full-time workers. “Large reductions are foreseen in the Arab states (8.1 per cent, equivalent to five million full-time workers), Europe (7.8 per cent, or 12 million full-time workers) and Asia and the Pacific (7.2 per cent, 125 million full-time workers),” the agency predicts, adding that huge losses are expected across different income groups but especially in upper-middle income countries (7.0 per cent, 100 million full-time workers). This far exceeds the effects of the 2008-9 financial crisis. 

8 April 2020 – Unions: hundreds of US flight attendants infected

According to labour unions, hundreds of American flight attendants have been infected with the novel coronavirus. The union representing the employees of American Airlines said about 100 flight attendants have been infected; another union, representing the workers of Southwest Airlines, says “at least 600” airline’s employees have tested positive for the virus. American Airlines hasn’t denied the numbers; Southwest, however, claimed the number to be inaccurate and that “far less” of its workers had tested positive. If these numbers are true, they can be comparable with all airlines around the world.

Southwest Airlines’ Boeing 737 taking off in Minneapolis, MN. Photo by Nick Morales on Unsplash.

8 April 2020 – 2.5 million protective masks are now sold in pharmacies

One Sunday, three million surgical masks were transported to Estonia. Two and half million masks are now sold at the pharmacies across the country. The masks are not rationed, but pharmacies are recommended to sell no more than a box – or 50 masks – per purchase. According to the government, more masks will be imported to Estonia in “near future”, so there’s no need to panic buy. The masks sold in pharmacies are intended for individual use and have a protective effect, but to a lesser extent than special medical masks.

8 April 2020 – Some of the masks sold in Estonia are dust masks, and they’re overpriced

Some of the “surgical” face masks sold by Estonian pharmacies are actually dust masks which don’t help avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus. The country’s consumer protection authority compiled a review of the masks and said they didn’t qualify as surgical masks, which prompted the state to decline the masks as the frontline workers need actual surgical masks that work.

On top of that, some of the pharmacies are overcharging for the masks. The news portal, Delfi, writes that the recommended retail price of the masks is below €0.70 per mask, which would make a pack of 50 cost €35. Many pharmacies are selling the masks for the RRP; however, some have priced it considerably higher. At Kiili pharmacy, a pack of 50 costs, for example, €44; at pharmacy in Lasnamäe, the price is €45. The price of the three-layer surgical masks is even higher – according to Delfi, a pack of 50 of these costs around €75-85.

8 April 2020 – Three more people die of the coronavirus

Over the last twenty-four hours, three more people succumbed to the disease: a 92-year-old woman in West Tallinn Central Hospital, a 53-year-old woman and a 73-year-old man in Kuressaare Hospital. The 53-year-old woman was working as a caregiver at the Kuressaare Hospital, she is the first healthcare worker victim in Estonia, who has died of the virus.

Kuressaare Hospital in Saaremaa.

8 April 2020 – Estonia’s real medical supply: one mass accident or a few days of the coronavirus

The Estonian weekly newspaper, Eesti Ekspress, published an investigative report yesterday (behind a paywall and in Estonian), saying the state’s protective gear ran out in the first week of the emergency situation instituted due to the novel coronavirus. “Classified risk assessments warned of the purchasing hardships due to a pandemic a long time ago, but the politicians, in the good times, lacked the interest in paying for the supplies to be stocked in warehouses.” The chief of the ambulance service of the town of Tartu, Ago Kõrgvee, told the newspaper: “I’m annoyed by the fact that we’re hearing at every step how our ministers are commending themselves on how ready they were [for the coronavirus epidemic]. In reality, the lack of protective gear is a huge threat to the entire nation.”

8 April 2020 – Scientists: If people abide by the rules, the current restrictions are sufficient

According to professors Irja Lutsar and Krista Fischer of the University of Tartu, the current trends in Estonia aren’t indicating the darkest scenario, but not the best either as the contagion trend is still rising. “It’s stable, but needs to be monitored every day. The number of the infected is still showing a growth trend; we’re testing well and, as of now, the hospitals are ready and have enough supplies. The current rules are sufficient, if people abide by them!” Lutsar said, according to news portal Delfi.

8 April 2020 – Estonia starts testing people randomly

Estonia is to start testing for the novel coronavirus based on a random formula to discover the more exact contagion of the virus. The testing is voluntary, and it’ll show whether the test subject is sick even when they don’t have any symptoms, the evening news of the public broadcasting said. A professor at the University of Tartu, Ruth Kalda said, that testing based on a random formula would provide information on how the virus has spread among the people. 

COVID-19 coronavirus test kit. Photo by the CDC.

8 April 2020 – Elementary and high school finals may be cancelled

In case the emergency situation in Estonia is extended, schoolchildren may get their diplomas without passing their finals. According to a proposed amendment to a law, depending on the length of the emergency situation, the finals may be postponed or, in the case when the emergency situation is extended, let the elementary and high school students graduate without passing the finals.

7 April 2020 – Tiina Aleman Iannoti from NYC: strength in the face of adversity

Tiina Aleman Iannoti, a descendant of Estonians living in Jersey City, NJ, writes about the coronavirus crisis in New York City, describing the horror of refrigeration trucks outside the city hospitals for the bodies of those who have died from the novel coronavirus; but there has also been much kindness and generosity during this crisis.

USNS Comfort heading up the Hudson River on 30 March 2020. Photo by Jim Henderson, shared under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 licence.

7 April 2020 – New York City has lost more people to coronavirus than the 9/11 death toll

New York City has now lost 3,202 people to the novel coronavirus, which is more than the entire death toll of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, which killed 2,753 people in NYC and 2,977 overall when hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Center twin towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. The entire New York state has lost 5,489 people to the virus, which the last 24 hours seeing the largest one-day jump yet – 731 deaths. Over 72,000 people have been diagnosed with the virus in NYC and almost 132,000 in the entire state. In the United States, over 378,000 people have been diagnosed, close to 12,000 have succumbed to the virus.

7 April 2020 – The government is preparing an “exit strategy”

The Estonian government announced it is preparing an “exit plan” of the coronavirus crisis; the first draft of the plan will be published in mid-April. The exit strategy has four objectives:

  • Ensuring the physical and mental health of people: slowing down the spread of the virus and mitigating its impact on the health care system both the short- and long-term perspective, as well as supporting the mental health of the population during and after the crisis.
  • Ensuring the subsistence of people and the return to regular life: reducing the impact of the emergency restrictions on people’s daily subsistence. Among other things, declining incomes, unemployment, and education issues will be addressed.
  • Supporting the survival of businesses and their continued competitiveness: reducing the impact of restrictions on the competitiveness of businesses and the economy.
  • Ensuring the functioning of the state: ensuring the supply of vital goods, the provision of services, and compliance with the emergency restrictions as well as preventing the tensions in the society from erupting into conflicts.

7 April 2020 – Finland bans passenger ferry traffic from 11 April

Starting Saturday, 11 April, Finland is banning passenger ferry traffic into the country and therefore, Tallink, the Estonian shipping company, won’t let foot or car passengers board its ferries from Saturday onward. As of now, the ban will last until 13 May. Cargo traffic between the countries will continue and the ban does not affect truck drivers, the crews of the ferries and the workers of shipping yards. Tallink will continue with passenger traffic between Estonia and Sweden.

The Megastar, Tallink's shuttle ship that cruises between Tallinn and Helsinki. Photo: the Tallink Facebook page.
The Megastar, Tallink’s shuttle ship that cruises between Tallinn and Helsinki. Photo: the Tallink Facebook page.

7 April 2020 – Study: Only 6% of actual coronavirus infections detected worldwide

A study by the University of Göttingen in Germany has revealed the official number of confirmed cases of coronavirus is dramatically understated. “Data shows, due to insufficient and delayed testing, countries throughout the world have only discovered about 6% of COVID-19 cases,” the university says. “The true number of infections worldwide may already have reached several tens of millions.”

7 April 2020 – The Health Board wants Hiiumaa to abide by the same rules as Saaremaa

The Estonian Health Board is recommending the island of Hiiumaa abide by the same stricter rules as the neighbouring island of Saaremaa where only certain stores can stay open and no restaurants may offer dine-in services. “This recommendation has been made to the ministry of social affairs and its reasoning is first and foremost that we need to take into the account the age structure of the population of Hiiumaa,” the Health Board’s chief of emergency medicine, Martin Kadai, said, adding that another consideration is the capability of Hiiumaa’s hospitals to manage patients with severe illness and most critical patients will have to be brought to the mainland.

The rules in Saaremaa currently are stricter than anywhere else in Estonia. Only grocery stores, pharmacies, telecom sales points, banks, parcel lockers, post offices, and medical and optical supply stores will remain open. All dine-in restaurants are closed, take-away and delivery will be operational. All plastic surgery, beauty services (barbers and hairdressers, manicure, pedicure, beauticians, tattoo parlours and tanning salons), massage parlours and rehabilitation services will have to close. The order also shuts down all libraries.

The island of Hiiumaa is the second-largest island in Estonia after its neighbouring Saaremaa. Screenshot from Google Maps.

7 April 2020 – Expert: the virus may become a seasonal problem

Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government’s chief health-care expert and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said that if the outbreak of the novel coronavirus does not get “globally under control,” it is likely to become a recurring problem. “Unless we get this globally under control, there’s a very good chance that it will assume a seasonal nature,” Fauci said on CBS, adding that people must be prepared for a resurgence next year, which is why officials fighting the pandemic are pushing for a vaccine and clinical trials for therapeutic interventions so that “we will have interventions that we did not have” when this started.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government’s chief health-care expert and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Screenshot from a video.

7 April 2020 – When is it safe to start reopening a country?

How will we know when to reopen a country? That’s the question many are asking around the world in the novel coronavirus pandemic. A recent report by Scott Gottlieb, Caitlin Rivers, Mark B. McClellan, Lauren Silvis and Crystal Watson, referenced today by the New York Times, has staked out some goal posts:

  • Hospitals in the state must be able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalisation, without resorting to crisis standards of care. This is the most immediate bar and the focus of most public health officials’ attention. 
  • A state needs to be able to test at least everyone who has symptoms. 
  • The state is able to conduct monitoring of confirmed cases and contacts.
  • There must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days, because it can take up to two weeks for symptoms to emerge, any infections that have already happened can take that long to appear. 

These four criteria are a baseline, according to the newspaper. Other experts think there needs to testing looks for antibodies in the blood that our bodies created to fight the infection. These tests can be much cheaper and faster than the ones we’re currently using to detect the virus in sick people. Testing for antibodies will tell us how many people in a community have already been infected, as opposed to currently infected, and may also provide information about future immunity.

7 April 2020 – China has ended its coronavirus lockdown

China, the country where the novel coronavirus originated from, has ended its lockdown and is now seeing massive crowds gathering in places like Huangshan mountain park that has waived its entry fee to locals, encouraging visitors to come hiking. According to the New York Daily News, more than 20,000 guests, who do not appear to be practicing social distancing, had packed the popular spot. 

In addition, over 50 scenic destination spots were said to have been open for business in Eastern China’s Zhejiang Province during the weekend’s Qingming Festival. According to CNN, Hong Kong epidemiologist Yuen Kwok-yung warned local news outlets that China could see a second wave of coronavirus infections if tour groups don’t behave responsibly. “The epidemic is still serious in the society,” he said.

7 April 2020 – WHO: Wearing masks isn’t a silver bullet

The World Health Organisation is saying that wearing surgical masks in the public alone won’t solve the novel coronavirus pandemic. The director-general of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said yesterday, “There is no black or white answer and no silver bullet. Masks alone cannot stop the pandemic.” He also reiterated that medical masks “must be prioritised for health workers on the front lines of the response”. The general consensus among doctors and health-care experts is, wearing a surgical mask will not protect people from the virus; however, they may protect others from the person who is wearing one, should they be a carrier.

7 April 2020 – British PM Boris Johnson taken to intensive care

The prime minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, has been taken to intensive care with the coronavirus. The 55-year-old is having breathing difficulties and he was given oxygen, Sky News said, adding that Johnson remains conscious and has not been put on a ventilator. The move to the ICU was a precaution should he later need one, the news portal added. Johnson was hospitalised yesterday, 10 days after confirming he had contracted the novel coronavirus. The prime minister phoned foreign secretary Dominic Raab to ask him to deputise “where necessary”, a request made before Johnson was moved to intensive care. The Queen has been kept informed of the developments.

British prime minister Boris Johnson. Screenshot from a video address.

6 April 2020 – Report on the situation in Estonia for Radio New Zealand

Estonian World’s editor-in-chief, Silver Tambur, gave this report to Radio New Zealand on how Estonia is weathering this current global storm.

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6 April 2020 – Estonian MEP: Taiwan should be admitted to the WHO

Urmas Paet, an Estonian liberal member of the European Parliament, said Estonia, as a member of the World Health Organisation, should also raise the issue that the WHO must not allow itself to be manipulated by China, and, considering the protection of public health, Taiwan should also be admitted to the WHO.

“Had the World Health Organisation heeded Taiwan’s warnings and shared them with the rest of the world, Europe would have been able to deal with the new virus earlier. However, the WHO wanted to please China and ignored Taiwan’s warnings. The global health crisis is not a place for political games and the WHO should finally understand this,” Paet wrote in the social media.

Urmas Paet.

6 April 2020 – Four more people die of the coronavirus in Estonia

Over the last twenty-four hours, the virus claimed four more lives, all of them in Saaremaa island. A 60-year-old man, a 72-year-old man, a 78-year-old woman and an 86-year-old woman died in Kuressaare hospital. In total, 19 people have died of the coronavirus in Estonia.

6 April 2020 – Important contacts, websites and media outlets

Settle in Estonia, a free educational programme provided by the Estonian state which is intended to help the foreigners who have arrived in Estonia to adapt and become accustomed to local life more easily, published these information posters that highlight the important phone numbers and websites, including the Estonian English-language media outlets, during the crisis.

6 April 2020 – American Estonian organisations urge people to watch out for disinformation

The Estonian American National Council and the Estonian Central Council in Canada advise all Estonians living in North America and beyond, to follow the instructions of government health officials and experts with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Disinformation about treatments for COVID-19 is being widely disseminated, possibly including in our Estonian communities, that could lead to serious health consequences and could put our communities at risk should these be thought as credible,” the organisations say in a joint statement that comes in the light of some Estonian expat outlets spreading false claims as if vitamin C could be a viable cure against the novel coronavirus.

6 April 2020 – PM: We all have to act as if we were contagious

The Estonian prime minister, Jüri Ratas, said last night in an address that everyone must act as if we were all contagious. He noted that he’s worried about every-day news about people who are hurting other people’s efforts. “No undertaking or a meeting is worth the disease to quietly infect others,” he said. 

Ratas also said that there’s nothing shameful in wishing to spare one’s own and others’ health. “Wearing a face mask should be a social norm,” he asserted. “It doesn’t have to be a medical mask. The Consumer Protection Authority has published a guidance on how to make your own mask at home.” That guidance is currently available only in Estonian, however.

6 April 2020 – Queen Elizabeth offers a message of hope and unity

At the time when the Estonian leaders are either repeating the same mantras day in, day out, or trying to use the emergency situation to their political benefit, the Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II, has offered a message of hope and unity in a public address. “Together we are tackling this disease and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it,” the British monarch said. 

“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again,” the queen noted. “The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future.” It was only the fifth address of its kind during her 68-year reign and it was also broadcast across the Commonwealth.

Queen Elizabeth II. Screenshot from the video address.

6 April 2020 – NYT: Finland doesn’t need to worry about masks

According to an article in the New York Times, Finland doesn’t need to worry about face masks as it’s sitting on an enviable supply of medical and survival gear, due to stockpiling them. “The stockpile, considered one of Europe’s best and built up over years, includes not only medical supplies, but also oil, grains, agricultural tools and raw materials to make ammunition,” the newspaper says, noting that Finland’s location and historical lessons have taught the nation of 5.5 million to prepare for the worst. 

There is little publicly available information on the number of masks and other supplies that the country has or where exactly they are stored, as the information is classified, but the local authorities say that even though the masks are old, they’re still functioning. “But though details are kept a state secret, the authorities confirmed that the stockpiles are kept in a network of facilities spread across the country and that the current system has been in place since the 1950s. That has placed Finland in a more solid position to confront the pandemic,” according to the newspaper.

A woman putting on a surgical mask. Photo by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash.

6 April 2020 – British PM hospitalised

The prime minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, has been hospitalised “for tests” 10 days after confirming he had contracted the novel coronavirus. The 55-year-old still has persistent symptoms and went to the hospital on the advice of his doctor, the prime minister’s office said. Dominic Raab, the country’s foreign secretary, will take over chairing the government’s regular crisis committee meeting today. By Sunday, 4,934 people had died in the UK; 48,440 people have been infected with the virus.

6 April 2020 – Seven tigers and lions at a New York zoo test positive for the virus

Seven tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo, a zoo in New York City, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus – believed to be the first known infection of an animal in the US or a tiger anywhere. According to the Associated Press, the animals are believed to have been infected by a zoo employee. The first animal started showing symptoms on 27 March, and all are expected to recover.

There have been reports of a small number of pets becoming infected after close contact with contagious people, including a Hong Kong dog that tested positive for a low level of the pathogen in February and early March. Hong Kong agriculture authorities concluded that pet dogs and cats couldn’t pass the virus to human beings but could test positive if exposed by their owners.

One of the big cats infected with the coronavirus at the Bronx Zoo was a four-year-old Malayan tiger. Photo by Greg Hume, shared under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

5 April 2020 – Former president: We need to guarantee the survival of the nation

Estonia’s previous president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, told a morning show on the Estonian Public Broadcasting that the first thing the state has to do is to guarantee the survival of the nation. “There is no big point in dealing with the economy when you’re dead. The generation older than me realised very clearly after the Second World War that the main thing is to survive. Everything else can be rebuilt. But if you lose your life, then there’s nothing else to do,” Ilves said, hoping that the country will, first and foremost, concentrate on the nation’s health.

Speaking of the coming financial crisis, he said that when solving the 2009-2010 crisis was a political decision where different countries acted differently, even though the possible solutions were quite clear, then this time we’re facing uncertainty. We don’t even know whether the novel coronavirus mutates. “If it mutates, how fast? Is it going to become a permanent disease which, like the flu, comes again every year and mutates in some form? Then the solution woul be that we’ll get a corona shot every year. Or is it like the measles that com once in your life and you have immunity forever? We don’t know that.”

Toomas Hendrik Ilves at an Estonian Song Celebration. Photo by Jarek Jõepera.

4 April 2020 – Minister: we have a critical supply of protective gear

Jaak Aab, the Estonian minister of public administration, said today that the country has a critical supply of personal protective gear and he hopes that during the next week, surgical masks will be available for sale in pharmacies. According to him, the government has signed a contract with a Chinese manufacturer to get enough supplies for a month; the first delivery will arrive “hopefully” on next Wednesday, Aab said. In addition, there have been six smaller acquisitions, from which all institutions in need should already have received their part. According to the minister, all institutions should have enough protective gear for a week.

4 April 2020 – Doctor: the actual number of the infected in Estonia may be around 10,000

According to an Estonian doctor, Margus Punab, the actual number of the people infected with the novel coronavirus in Estonia may be around 10,000. He wrote on social media that in the countries that are conducting mass tests – like the Vatican, San Marino and Andorra – there are around 7,000 cases for every million people. In actively testing countries – like Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Luxembour – around 3,700 cases for every million inhabitants.

“In my opinion, we’re at the same pace as Iceland – the contagion and its beginning are similar; however, our system is less capable and therefore we can assume that our contagion is about five to ten times higher than the confirmed cases,” the doctor said. “This fortunately means that there may be less critical cases than so far feared. At the same time, this means we have minimally 4,000 infected people; taking into account Saaremaa and not-so-properly tested Ida-Virumaa into account, I dare to say the number of the infected is around 10,000,” Punab said.

4 April 2020 – The Estonian National Opera starts streaming performances for free

The Estonian National Opera begins streaming performances; the first one, the opera, “Faust”, will be streamed on 4 April. Watching the performance online is free of charge and although it’s streamed via Facebook, the viewer does not need to have Facebook account.

Mephistopheles, played by Ain Anger. Photo by Harri Rospu.

4 April 2020 – EC proposes a €100 million rescue package, names it SURE

The European Commission has proposed a new temporary rescue package, worth up to €100 million, to help protect jobs and people in work. The “instrument”, as the EC calls it, is titled, “Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency” – or SURE for short. “It will provide financial assistance, in the form of loans granted on favourable terms from the EU to member states, of up to €100 billion in total. These loans will assist member states to address sudden increases in public expenditure to preserve employment,” the European Commission said.

“Specifically, these loans will help member states to cover the costs directly related to the creation or extension of national short-time work schemes, and other similar measures they have put in place for the self-employed as a response to the current coronavirus pandemic.”

What the EC neglected to do is to consult the instrument’s name with the member states. Because the word sure means “die!” in Estonian (it’s the imperative case of the word surema, “to die”).

3 April 2020 – Stores have to limit the number of customers; offer disinfectants

The Estonian prime minister, Jüri Ratas, signed an order today that, starting from tomorrow, forces all stores that are open to the public to calculate their areas and, according to it, limit the number of customers concurrently in the store so that everyone would follow the 2+2 rule – maximum two people in a group and two metres apart from other parties. The stores will also need to offer disinfectants to their customers. The rule applies to stores, post offices, pharmacies and service centres that have remained open during the emergency situations. They will also need to assure the people outside, waiting to be let in, are following the 2+2 rule.

3 April 2020 – Nursing home residents banned from leaving the premises

The Estonian prime minister, Jüri Ratas, signed an order according to which people receiving 24 hour special care service and a general care service are not allowed to leave the premises of the nursing home until the end of the emergency situation. Only people without symptoms may go home from a nursing home, understanding they cannot return to the nursing home until the end of the emergency situation.

Nursing homes must ensure that people infected with the novel coronavirus and other people who have been in close contact with the infected, will have to be isolated.  Any contact with other people, except care providers and medical personnel, is prohibited.

3 April 2020 – The virus has been confirmed in 17 nursing homes

The novel coronavirus has been confirmed in 17 nursing homes all over Estonia, the Estonian daily, Postimees, reports. As all nursing homes are under testing, it’s possible the list will keep expanding. The ministry of social affairs told the newspaper that the contagion into nursing homes is inevitable, since if there are confirmed cases in a county, the virus will find its way into the county’s nursing homes.

3 April 2020 – PM: Let’s think our actions through and avoid close contacts

The Estonian prime minister, Jüri Ratas, said in a video address that in the coming weekend and the following weeks, everyone should think all their comings and goings and actions through and if possible, cancel them. “We have to undertake our essential chores so that the contacts with other people were as minimal as possible. This is for the simple reason that the coronavirus spreads from one person to another and the only way to avoid contagion is to avoid close contacts with other people,” Ratas said. He thanked the people for their suffering and sacrifice, and called upon everybody to take care of each other.

The Estonian prime minister, Jüri Ratas. Screenshot from the video.

3 April 2020 – Three million surgical masks to arrive in Estonia on Sunday

Three million surgical masks are to arrive in Estonia on Sunday, two million of them will be sent to the pharmacies across the country for retail sale; some of them will be distributed by companies as charity. One million of the masks will go to the state who will distribute them to essential workers, including the police, the rescue workers, nursing homes and hospitals.

3 April 2020 – Google mobility report: Estonians go to parks more than usual

According to a mobility report by Google, compiled to help people and health officials understand responses to the social distancing guidance due to the coronavirus pandemic, Estonians are nowadays going to parks more than usual. The mobility trend for places like national parks, public beaches, marinas, dog parks, plazas and public gardens has shown a four per cent spike compared with the normal times; however, visiting retail and recreation facilities has dropped by 60%, and grocery stores and pharmacies have seen a 28% drop.

Transit stations have seen a 51% drop, and workplace attendance has dropped by 32 per cent, compared with the usual. However, residential attendance – basically, staying home – has only risen by 10 per cent. Google says its mobility report shouldn’t be used for medical diagnostic, prognostic or treatment purposes, and it also isn’t intended to be used for guidance on personal travel plans.

3 April 2020 – FM: 61 Estonians wish to return home

According to the Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Reinsalu, the ministry is aware of 61 people who are abroad and have informed the authorities about their wish to return home. “This doest mean there aren’t more of them who want to return,” Reinsalu said. “We just don’t know about everyone.” He assured that the Estonian borders will remain open for all Estonians, but a big part of the rest of the world is locked down, so people have to take that into the account. 

“Many of the people who need transport home are in New Zealand, Georgia and Argentina. We have to consider that, for at least the next two months, the borders across the world will be shut down.” Reinsalu also noted that the state operates on a principle that people who wish to return will pay for their transport themselves. “When a person has real financial hardship, then local municipalities have helped. One lady who returned from an exotic country got financial aid from her municipality.”

3 April 2020 – EKRE MPs vote against parliament committee’s statement in support of the unity of the EU and NATO

In the light of the current crisis, members of the Estonian parliament’s (Riigikogu) foreign affairs committee on Thursday adopted a statement in support of the unity of the European Union and NATO and the solidarity between the member states. “For Estonia, membership in the EU and NATO has been invaluable for both security and economic development. Protection of the value space of the West has to be the priority of the allies today. Protection of dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the principle of the rule of law and human rights is essential. The EU must jointly resist all attempts to use a state of emergency to restrict the freedoms and the rights of its citizens,” the statement says.

While the MPs of the prime minister’s party, the Centre Party, as well as the opposition MPs from the Reform Party and Social Democrats all voted in support of the statement, the MPs of the far-right Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) voted against. Out of the two MPs of Isamaa party, also in the government, one also voted in favour, while the other one abstained.  

3 April 2020 – Estonia joins 15 other EU countries to call for the protection of the rule of law, democracy and fundamental human rights

Sixteen European Union member states (out of 27) have issued a joint statement calling for the coronavirus emergency measures to be temporary and in line with rule of law principles.

Although Hungary is not mentioned in the statement, the increasingly authoritarian developments in that EU country are the reason it was issued. On Monday, Hungary’s parliament voted by a two-thirds majority to allow the government of the populist prime minister, Viktor Orbán, to rule by decree without a set time limit. Under the new law, individuals who publicise what are viewed as untrue or distorted facts face several years in jail – a reminiscent of the pre-1989 era, when Hungary was under the Communist rule, backed by Moscow.

“In this unprecedented situation, it is legitimate that member states adopt extraordinary measures to protect their citizens and overcome the crisis. We are however deeply concerned about the risk of violations of the principles of rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights arising from the adoption of certain emergency measures,” a statement by Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden says.

“Emergency measures should be limited to what is strictly necessary, should be proportionate and temporary in nature, subject to regular scrutiny, and respect the aforementioned principles and international law obligations. They should not restrict the freedom of expression or the freedom of the press. We need to jointly overcome this crisis and to jointly uphold our European principles and values on this path.”

Viktor Orbán (left) and Vladimir Putin (Wikipedia).

3 April 2020 – The New York Times reports on EKRE’s push to kick out foreign workers

The New York Times is reporting on the Estonian Conservative People’s Party’s push to enact a law that kicks non-EU national workers out of the country, should they lose their jobs. “As the Estonian public watched the authorities’ desperate attempts to contain a coronavirus outbreak on the island of Saaremaa, the government quietly enacted legislation that would send home all unemployed workers from outside the European Union,” the newspaper says. “The legislation was drafted by the Interior Ministry, which is led by Mart Helme, the head of the far-right Estonian Conservative People’s Party.’”

The New York Times is linking to the critical opinion article by Andrei Tuch, published in Estonian World on 2 April, who says, “if you were wondering whether the current government, including the far-right Estonian Conservative People’s Party, will try to pull off something sneaky under the cover of the constant coronavirus news – well, here you go”, calling the legislation “cruel”.

The headline in the New York Times.

2 April 2020 – Eleven people have now died of the coronavirus in Estonia

Last night, another six people died of the virus in Estonia: a 73-year-old woman, an 87-year-old woman and a 77-year-old man in Kuressaare Hospital; a 55-year-old man and a 92-year-old woman in Tartu University Hospital and an 86-year-old woman in North Estonia Medical Centre Foundation.

2 April 2020 – PM: the situation will become worse in the coming weeks

The Estonian prime minister, Jüri Ratas, said the government was compiling a plan on how to exit the emergency situation, but that does not mean the peak of the coronavirus crisis is over; it’ll rather become worse in the coming weeks. “We’re making a strategic plan, also an exit plan, but that doesn’t mean we have passed the peak of the crisis and are slowly coming clear,” Ratas told the Estonian Public Broadcasting’s main evening news programme. 

“When we look at the other characteristics – like hospitalisation – then we do see somewhat a stabilisation, but we cannot make conclusions based on a couple of days. Sadly, the predictions show that in the coming weeks, the picture will become worse rather than better.”

The Estonian prime minister, Jüri Ratas.

2 April 2020 – Over 50,000 people have perished to the coronavirus

Over 50,000 people globally have died from the complications of the novel coronavirus. According to the virus tracker of Johns Hopkins University, 51,485 people have succumbed to the virus. The number of the infected in the world has passed one million. The most cases have been confirmed in the United States – 236,339; the most deaths have been recorded in Italy – 13,915.

2 April 2020 – President: the emergency situation should be extended by short periods

The Estonian president, Kersti Kaljulaid, said in an interview with the public radio that it’s very important that the emergency situation would only be extended by as short periods as possible. “It’s essential about the emergency situation that it’s limited. We should know the date until which it is valid,” she said. “Regardless of whether we think or don’t think it should be extended. And the extension shouldn’t be so long that people would start to suspect that even after the medical crisis is over, the government would want to continue to lead in an emergency situation.”

Kaljulaid also noted that in practice, the current emergency measures are proportional and, considering the situation, relatively timely. How long would it take for the emergency situation to end, the president didn’t want to speculate.

The Estonian president, Kersti Kaljulaid.

2 April 2020 – Prediction: Estonia’s economy to contract 8% in 2020 because of the coronavirus

The Estonian finance ministry said the country’s economy could contract a whopping 8% this year. The country’s central bank is slightly more optimistic, predicting the economy will contract 6%.

2 April 2020 – Estonia receives 2.6 million units of protective gear

Estonia today received its part of the protective gear order, initiated together by Estonia and Latvia. The Estonian health-care institutions are to receive 1.5 million surgical masks, 30,000 FFP2 respirators, 20,000 scrubs, 5,000 protective goggles and 500,000 pairs of gloves. The gear was purchased from China.

The protective gear arriving from China at Tallinn Airport. Photo by Gerttu Blank, the finance ministry.

2 April 2020 – Seventy-five Estonians abroad wish to return home

According to the Estonian foreign ministry, there are 75 Estonian residents abroad who wish to return home as soon as possible. Over 2,650 people have already returned. The foreign ministry is saying that travel options ae extremely limited; most regular flights have been cancelled an a few special charter flights remain. “Travellers in transit should consider any restrictions imposed by our neighbouring countries, which may change at short notice,” the ministry warns.

2 April 2020 – Cultural institutions to get millions from the government

The Estonian government’s special budget is to give additional €4 million to the country’s theatres, €4 million to musicians and €600,000 to the film production sector to alleviate the impact of the coronavirus crisis, the Estonian daily, Eesti Päevaleht, reports. Museums are to get additional €6 million, sporting events €2.6 million and the literature, publishing and design sector €500,000.

2 April 2020 – Estonian distillery to produce hand sanitiser

To help deal with the current shortage of disinfectants, the Estonian distillery, Remedia, will begin production of hand sanitiser, SteriGel, that is based on the World Health Organisation’s recommended formula. The product will be available for purchasing to major retail chains and governmental institutions where hand sanitiser supplies are low by the end of this week. The gel is alcohol-based and will be available in a four-litre canister, which can be transferred into smaller containers. The hand sanitiser will be in a liquid form and will contain 70% alcohol.

2 April 2020 – The Estonian interior ministry has come up with a cruel plan to kick out non-EU citizens on its will

“A state of emergency is in effect in Estonia until 1 May; if you were wondering whether the current government, including the far-right Estonian Conservative People’s Party, EKRE, will try to pull off something sneaky under the cover of the constant coronavirus news – well, here you go,” writes Andrei Tuch, commenting on the Estonian interior ministry’s plan to kick out non-EU citizens on its will.

2 April 2020 – Lockdown: a report from Los Angeles

Juri Koll, an artist, filmmaker and curator and a descendant of Estonians, writes from the locked down Los Angeles, California, that the people of the city are remembering our past, learning to appreciate basic things, such as a walk around the block, waking up to birds singing, and being alive and lucky enough to help each other out – but there are also many challenges.

Juri Koll at his gallery in downtown LA, the Venice Institute of Contemporary Art. Photo by Dietmar Kohl.

2 April 2020 – The crisis may cut the state’s income by €3.5 billion in two years

The ongoing coronavirus crisis may cut Estonia’s income by €3.5 billion in two years, therefore, the government will today ask the parliament to get access to the country’s stabilisation reserve. According to the proposal, the government is asking to get access to the reserve in its full amount, but according to the actual need, step by step. However, it’s necessary for the government to have access to the full reserve, should the state develop issues with payouts or debt payments.

1 April 2020 – Emergency medicine chief: the contagion is still in the initial stages

Dr Arkadi Popov, the Estonian government’s chief of emergency medicine, said in a TV programme, “The First Studio” (“Esimene stuudio”) that the contagion in the country is still in its initial stages. “Looking at how many hospitalised people we have, how many people are in intensive care, then I would say that axle will continue to go upwards,” he noted, adding that in two-three weeks we could say when we’ll reach the peak. “Right now, it seems to me it won’t be short. I should be more pessimistic than optimistic about this.”

1 April 2020 – PM: We’ll reconsider the emergency situation when the contagion will decline

The Estonian prime minister, Jüri Ratas, said in the radio that currently, it’s impossible to say when the emergency situation will end. “One indicator is that if the number of the infected will start falling on an every-day basis. Currently, this indicator is constant and there are over 30 new infections every day. We’re seeing the number of the hospitalised rising and more people need intensive care. … The emergency situation will last until 1 May, as of now, but of course, the government would want to end it as soon as possible.”

1 April 2020 – Estonian company to make all its respirators for the domestic market

The government has signed an agreement with an Estonian business guaranteeing 50,000 FFP3 respirators a week for half a year from mid-April, the factory is making preparations to double production to produce up to 100,000 masks a week for the country. The quantity ordered will “significantly reduce” the needs of the Estonian health-care institutions, the government said.

Estonia is also ordering protective gear from China for $11.4 million. The order entails 5.5 million surgical masks, two million respirators FFP2 and 100,000 FFP3, 100,000 protective goggles, 25 million pair protective gloves, 1.1 million scrubs, 500,000 hats and two million footwear covers.

The FFP2 respirator mask.

1 April 2020 – America may become the next Italy

Here’s an update from across the pond, from the Chicago-based deputy editor-in-chief of Estonian World, Sten Hankewitz: “The US authorities are beginning to understand, finally, that shit is actually hitting the fan. The vice president, Mike Pence, said White House modelling suggested ‘Italy may be the most comparable area to the United States’ in terms of the impact of the pandemic. Italy is currently the global epicentre, with 110,574 cases and 13,155 deaths, and public health experts have warned for weeks that the US could be on the same path if it didn’t take drastic measures to curb the contagion.

“We currently have 213,372 cases and 4,757 deaths, but a much larger population (Italy 60 million, the US 327 million). Also, Italy imposed a nationwide lockdown on 9 March, and closed its borders, like most countries in Europe have done. In the US, there are still a number of states that don’t have stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders, and it’s impossible to restrict travelling between the states. Meanwhile, Florida became the latest state to impose a stay-at-home order, requiring its 21 million residents to stay indoors unless they’re pursuing essential services or activities. Florida already has 3,274 cases and at least 857 deaths; however, the governor had resisted until today to impose any restrictions.

“Pence has said the modelling suggested there would be ‘between 1.6 million and 2.2 million losses’ if the U.S. did not implement social distancing guidelines. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has said there will be a ‘very painful’ fight and projected 100,000 to 240,000 US deaths, even with mitigation efforts.

“My home state, Illinois, has now 6,980 confirmed coronavirus cases and 141 deaths. Our stay-at-home order has been extended until at least 30 April. And Illinois is now facing another pressing issue – a shortage of medical personnel. The state authorities today – twice – sent an emergency alert to the cell phones of the state’s residents, asking all licenced health-care workers to step forward.”

1 April 2020 – Tallinn Central Library offers delivery of books and other items via parcel machines

The Tallinn Central Library’s departments and libraries are closed until 1 May, but for the patrons of the library, there is now a charged option to order books to a parcel. The customer will pay for the service according to the Omniva price list via a bank payment at the parcel machine. The price of one order is €4.58-€6.59 depending on the size of the package. All available books, magazines, CDs and DVDs etc can be ordered via filling out a form, up to five books per order. The form can be found online. To find out whether the desired item is available, please check the ESTER database.

1 April 2020 – Volunteers are helping deliver coronavirus tests

For the next four weeks, Rally Estonia volunteers are transporting samples from mobile coronavirus test centres across Estonia to the laboratory of Synlab in Tallinn for testing. Fuel for volunteers is provided by a retail chain Circle K.

Currently, the drive-in test centres are in Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu, Kuressaare, Viljandi, Narva and Kohtla-Järve, requiring over 3,000 kilometres (1,900 miles) of travelling per day. With the help of volunteers, three extra rounds are now made on the Narva-Kohtla-Järve-Tallinn, Viljandi-Tartu-Tallinn and Pärnu-Tallinn routes, the total distance of which is over 1,000 kilometres (620 miles). Additional routes to outbreak areas on Saaremaa island and Võru are also being considered. Family doctors (GPs) began issuing referrals to patients with coronavirus symptoms for drive-in sampling points a week ago.

Tarmo Hõbe, one of the organisers of Rally Estonia, volunteering to deliver coronavirus tests.

1 April 2020 – 8,200 people have to self-quarantine in Estonia

Around 8,200 people have to self-quarantine in Estonia, some of them because they returned from abroad and have been ordered to stay home for 14 days, and some because they’ve been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. Police are calling people and checking whether they’re following the rules; so far, they’ve discovered 176 incidents when they weren’t.

1 April 2020 – Over 42,000 people worldwide have died

Over 42,000 people worldwide have died of the novel coronavirus to date with 858,000 people infected. Italy is leading the death toll with close to 12,500 deaths, with Spain following with almost 8,500 people succumbed to the virus. France has recorded over 3,500 deaths which is more than China’s official reported number of 3,187. The country with the most confirmed cases of the coronavirus is the United States – almost 189,000. Almost 4,000 people have died of it in the US. Almost 180,000 people in the world have recovered from the virus.

1 April 2020 – Estonians can still fly to Minsk – where the president doesn’t care about the virus

On 30 March, Estonian World posted on its coronavirus blog that the real-time Tallinn Airport data showed there were no departing or arriving flights in the foreseeable future. We also posted it on Twitter, where Tallinn Airport responded by saying, “we still have connections with Minsk and Frankfurt, both destinations 3 flights per week”.

And keeping the air connection to the last dictatorship in Europe open is a really smart idea. Because the country’s president, Alexander Lukashenka, has downplayed the coronavirus risks from the get-go. “It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees!” Lukashenka told a Belarusian television reporter when asked whether the coronavirus could stop him from hitting the rink for a propaganda-filled hockey game. “Me? Why? I don’t understand. There is no virus here. This is a refrigerator, it is the best thing for your health. Sport, especially on ice, is better than any antiviral medication. It is the real thing.”

Two weeks ago, he said Belarus has survived worse than the novel pandemic hitting the world. Saunas, vodka and tending to the fields were the best remedy for those who fear the spread of the virus, he said. “The tractor will heal everyone,” he said, “the fields heal everyone.” Belarus has reported 152 cases of the coronavirus so far.

Alexander Lukashenka in 2015. Photo by the Kremlin.

For older posts, please see our March blog.

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