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Stenbock House panorama view, Source: Kaupo Kalda / valitsus.ee

Estonia mulls introducing risk levels system to control coronavirus

Estonia mulls introducing risk levels system to control coronavirus

The plan proposes a 4-tier system of risk levels and actions to be taken by businesses, organizations and persons to prevent lockdowns

A comprehensive blueprint for organizing Estonian social and economic life in the context of the coronavirus pandemic was submitted yesterday to Riigikogu (Parliament). The government’s Coronavirus Management Plan describes the principles of decision-making and the activities needed for recovery from the corona crisis.

Public debate

In a political statement, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas remarked that Estonians have been living with the coronavirus for over a year and that it was time for society to reclaim control of the situation. "We have enough scientific knowledge and practical experience to know that the spread of this virus can be controlled if we, as a society, agree on certain rules, which we adhere to together. Thus we can keep Estonian society and economy functioning and open," said the Prime Minister, quoted by the government press office.

According to her, the plan opens a public debate on how Estonia could function as a society and become stronger in the context of the coronavirus, and comprises proposals on how the state, every person, organization and company could act to reduce the risk. "This is a big picture that we will finally draw together. We want to make sure that when the level of danger rises, everyone knows how to behave so that the level does not turn red," said Kallas.

Avoiding the top down approach

A four-tier system of risk levels, similar to the traffic light alert system introduced in other countries, will be introduced to monitor the situation. Green, yellow, orange and red indicate low, medium, high and very high levels of risk. 

Given the level of risk, different sectors can create codes of conduct and recommendations based on the specifics of their field of activity, so that people's health is best protected and the need for restrictions imposed by the government is reduced. The types of restrictions that the government considers when the level of risk changes, are also described.

The aim of the plan, in the words of the Prime Minister, is not to create a situation where the government imposes conditions on people, companies and organizations from the top down. "On the contrary, we want to involve the whole society so that everyone feels their role and responsibility in reducing the spread of the virus. We want all Estonian residents and umbrella organizations and companies operating here to be able to think and contribute constructive ideas and suggestions on how to work together... Nobody wants their institution, company, organization or the whole field to be shut down - everyone is tired of the restrictions," she said.

According to Kallas, the State Chancellery is thus launching a major discussion process so that all sectors affected by the current restrictions can come up with their own proposals for solutions. "In this way, we are taking an important step together to avoid the need to lock society in the future and to keep Estonian life, economy and people safe," she said.

Six goals

The plan sets out six goals for the government to manage the spread of the coronavirus: protect Estonians from being infected with the coronavirus, provide Estonian children with the opportunity to receive a quality education, mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the Estonian economy and employment, support Estonian cultural sustainability, support Estonian mental health and keep cross-border movement as open as possible.

The Coronavirus Management Plan also outlines short-term as well as longer-term actions to combat the spread of the virus and mitigate its socio-economic impact. The immediate measures will be funded mainly from this year's supplementary budget.

The proposed risk levels are described in Estonian at the kriis.ee website.

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