Political statement by Prime Minister Kaja Kallas in the Riigikogu, 8 April 2021

08.04.2021 | 12:43

Stenbock House, 8 April 2021 – Today, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas made a political statement in the Riigikogu to introduce a plan for organising the Estonian society during the spread of the coronavirus.
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Honourable Riigikogu!

We have been living with the coronavirus for over a year now. This unexpected journey has united society in the fight against the invisible enemy, but it has also brought challenges and new problems: how to protect the lives and health of the most vulnerable among us, ensure the sustainability of the health system and quality education for children, organise everyday life, and ensure that the economy functions in a situation where we have to fight off a virus that is still new and relatively unknown to humanity – a challenge that the whole world suddenly had to face.

Today, we have gotten to know this insidious virus – we know that the virus will not go away and we must learn to live with it. I believe that we are all tired of the cycle of lockdowns and reopenings and of constantly discussing restrictions. We have plenty of science-based knowledge and practical experience to know that we can take and maintain control of the spread of this virus if we agree on specific rules as society that we will abide by. This way, we can keep the Estonian life and economy running and open.

Today, I present to you the draft of the White Paper on how to organise society during the spread of the coronavirus. It reveals a broader course of action for us as a society to operate and become stronger in the context of the coronavirus, as well as proposals for actions for the state and every person, organisation, and company to limit the level of danger. This is a big picture that we will finish together. We want to reach a situation where, if the risk level rises, everyone knows what to do to avoid a red risk level.

We do not want to not to create a situation where the government sets top-down conditions for people, companies, and organisations. On the contrary – we want to include all of society to make everyone understand their role and responsibility in limiting the spread of the virus. We want all residents of Estonia and the umbrella organisations and companies operating here to think along and contribute constructive ideas and proposals for joint actions within a field of activity to control the spread of the virus. After all, no one wants their agencies, companies, organisations, or fields of activity locked down – everyone is tired of the restrictions.

Therefore, we are launching an extensive discussion process to allow all sectors previously affected by the restrictions to suggest their proposals for solutions of what each field of activity, organisation, or person can do to decrease the threat of the virus. This way, we are taking an important step together to avoid the need of locking down the society in the future and take care of the life, economy, and people of Estonia.

To assess the situation, we are implementing a four-level risk system in the White Paper. Green, yellow, orange, and red indicate low, medium, high, and very high risk, respectively. For each risk level, activities are described that can carried out by each person, organisation, and the state to help control the spread of the coronavirus. Sectoral agreements for self-regulation will also be added.

This way, in the context of the spread of the coronavirus, our life could work in such a way that the government, together with the scientific council, discusses and decides to increase the risk level if the situation has worsened or lower the risk level if the situation has improved. Thanks to this, everyone will know what principles to follow at the appropriate risk level.

In this plan, you will find a new practical and easy-to-use concept for organising life in Estonia, as well as a sincere will to listen and involve the whole of society in drawing up the rules concerning our lives. However, you will not find specific numbers. Why not add numbers to the plan that the government monitors numerically when calculating risk levels?

The answer is simple – the year of the coronavirus has taught us that there are many indicators to consider and they are constantly changing with the development of the situation. What we considered to be a very high or red risk level last spring would be a low or green risk level today. Let me remind you that we discussed in the Riigikogu the declaration of an emergency situation when we had 16 infected persons, and an emergency situation was declared when there were 27 infected persons in Estonia.

How does the government assess the risk level in an ever-changing situation? The indicators on the basis of which the risk level is to be assessed are available and have been published. At the same time, it is important to leave room for flexibility so that, as circumstances change, for example when a new strain of virus emerges against which the vaccines do not work, we can adapt the indicators to the circumstances. We also want society to be able to return to normal as soon as possible and not have to monitor numbers anxiously on a daily basis – this is the responsibility of the government who is managing the crisis. Therefore, these indicators are not a fixed part of the White Paper, but they must be public and accessible at all times.

Dear Riigikogu!

The document also provides both long-term and short-term planned activities of the state in managing the effects of the coronavirus and strengthening our society. There are numerous substantive plans. As this crisis has been primarily a health care crisis, the biggest bottleneck is the continuity of hospitals and the biggest shortage is the lack of health care professionals. I would therefore like to emphasise the need to create a reserve of medical staff.

This would work similarly to the Defence Forces reserve force, where specially trained reservists are called in to help at a moment of crisis. In the event of a health crisis, the people of the medical staff reserve will have crisis-time responsibilities and can be promptly called in to assist the medical staff. Be it medical students, doctors and nurses who no longer work in health care, Defence Forces paramedics, or volunteers who want to help in a crisis. We should create the reserve when the crisis is not acute.

We have been living with the coronavirus for over a year now, and it is time for society to take back control of the situation. We offer a practical and easy-to-use solution, led by the state, which is completed by the whole society. We will start these discussions with society as a whole today. I know that you have not yet read this document, but we will use this moment as the starting point for discussions. I plan to come to the political groups, listen to your suggestions and opinions, and take them into account when drawing up the final document.

I am counting on your active cooperation!

Valitsuse kommunikatsioonibüroo