Government approved the COVID-19 crisis exit strategy supplemented with proposals from the Riigikogu and other partners.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, head of emergency situation, emphasised that the aim of the exit strategy is to give Estonia a comprehensive approach to overcoming the crisis and to determine the bases and stages of easing restrictions on a scientific basis. “We have had to work together to get the virus under control and we have been able to overcome the most difficult moments so far. We can now gradually start to return to everyday life, mitigating the effects of the virus on society and supporting our people and businesses in emerging from the crisis stronger and more cohesive,” said the prime minister.
“I am grateful to all the partners who contributed their thoughts and efforts to the completion of the strategy document. As a result of the discussions, most of the comments and proposals submitted were included in the final version of the exit strategy which was approved by the government. Now, based on the framework of the strategy, we must start taking the necessary steps and actions to overcome the crisis, avoiding new major virus outbreaks,” said Ratas.
The prime minister added that the government’s plan to ease restrictions is flexible. “We will make decisions on a weekly basis about easing the restrictions which have been introduced to protect our health and lives. In addition to reopening scheduled treatments, we also started to ease the emergency situation measures and restrictions on the islands. From 2 May, open-air museums and outdoor areas of museums can be opened and open-air training sessions will be allowed again.” Ratas emphasised that the prerequisite for the lifting of restrictions was continued compliance with practices such as proper hygiene, adhering to the 2 + 2 rule, and wearing face masks and washing hands if necessary.
“The exit strategy provides an overall strategic framework which allows for the necessary management decisions in exiting the crisis, especially on the government committee,” said Henry Kattago, Strategy Director of the Government Office. “The strategy does not describe in detail the steps taken for different areas of life to overcome the crisis, possible additional support measures, detailed guidelines for the easing of restrictions, special conditions, or other circumstances. All these more detailed nuances will be further analysed at other decision-making levels.”
More than 100 proposals were received for the exit strategy plan which was approved and made public on 22 April by the Government Committee on reducing the spread of the coronavirus and addressing public health and economic problems. Most of the proposals were taken into account in the final document.
In order to specify the exit strategy, three sectoral sub-action plans will be drawn up with the partners to agree on activities for opening the economy, healthcare system, and borders. Thematic action plans for a longer period of time are also to be prepared by the relevant ministries.
• The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications will prepare an economic recovery action plan for the implementation of the strategy in May 2020, involving stakeholders and specifying economic indicators.
• In May 2020 at the latest, the Ministry of Social Affairs is to draw up a health system preparedness plan to deal with any new outbreaks of COVID-19 which includes the development of an early detection and contact monitoring system.
• The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in co-operation with partner countries and stakeholders, is to draw up an action plan for the free movement of goods and people.
In addition, it was decided to supplement the list of economic indicators in the strategy and include higher and vocational education in its approach to easing restrictions in the field of education. A number of proposals also addressed in detail the specific conditions and guidelines for easing restrictions – these will be forwarded to the relevant authorities, which will analyse the specific conditions for easing restrictions and develop guidelines.
Last week, the document was sent to Riigikogu factions and partners. During the public consultation, the factions and members of the Riigikogu and nearly 15 non-governmental organisations submitted their proposals for the exit strategy: Estonian Employers’ Confederation, Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Confederation of Estonian Trade Unions, Estonian Academy of Sciences, Estonian Banking Association, Estonian Association of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EVEA), Estonian Traders’ Association, Estonian Hotel and Restaurant Association, Estonian Association of Travel Agents, Estonian Food Industry Association, University of Tartu, Estonian Spa Association, MTÜ Eesti Konverentsibüroo, Estonian Renewable Energy Association, BLRT Grupp, a number of experts, the research council for combating COVID-19, and managers of major Estonian hospitals.
The exit strategy is divided into three stages. The first stage was the escalation of the infection outbreak. Currently, we are in the second stage – the stabilisation stage – where we can slowly roll back the restrictions that were imposed. The third stage is returning to everyday life, which also includes readiness for another possible disease outbreak. The imposed restrictions have been set in chronological and priority order, and their effect on the spread of the infection has been assessed. Restrictions will be lifted in stages when certain conditions are met and if the agreed metrics allow it.