“The Brussels Diary With Yana Toom”: Can We Avoid A State Of Emergency?


In Belgium, it is being viewed as a small reprieve: on the eve of Valentine's Day, hairdressers re-opened. But, apart from that, everything is tough: bars and restaurants are closed, you are not allowed to visit family and friends and you must wear a mask outside of your home or otherwise face a 250 euro fine. Children are going to school as usual, albeit wearing masks. Lockdown was introduced on 2 November, and there is as yet no end to it in sight.

The number of cases of COVID-19 has decreased from 20,000 to 2,000 per day, almost a tenfold drop. In Estonia, 700 people are now falling ill daily, but Belgium also has a population that is nine times bigger. The COVID sick rate in Estonia is three times higher, and it continues to worsen. Our indicators are four times worse than the German ones, two times worse than the Italians, and one and a half times worse than the French. Thankfully, the mortality rate is not too high yet.

The same question always comes up: what to do?

“Do you think there is still a need to tighten restrictions, or have we had enough already?” “If people were to abide by the current restrictions, everything would be fine.”

“In my opinion, the restrictions are already tough, and people are starting to tire.” “Could the restrictions be eased?” “No, just let them stay the same.”

“I think we’ve had enough, and there is no need to introduce further restrictions. We will fall ill, we will have immunity and then we will live as before.”

“I suppose the restrictions should be toughened after all. Just like in Latvia. I don’t know... what about introducing a curfew?”

“If people are unconcerned, no matter how much you increase the restrictions, nothing is going to sort it out fully.”

There is no consensus among politicians either. It is a monumental shame, but the EU has not developed a common policy on the pandemic. Let’s take Germany, which is planning to tighten its lockdown and close its borders with Austria and the Czech Republic due to new strains. Estonia has not even introduced the mandatory wearing of masks, although our situation is worse. According to Andres Merits, Professor of Applied Virology at the University of Tartu, we clearly cannot avoid a state of emergency. I quote: “with a high probability, in a few weeks, if for some reason you need to go to hospital, you will simply not be admitted, as there will be no beds available”.

All this is superimposed on top of the chaos with vaccines. Pfizer has thankfully launched a plant in Marburg, where it plans to produce 750 million doses per year. Meanwhile, the AstraZeneca vaccine has been delivered to Estonia, but nothing is clear about it: the WHO is advising against administering it to all age groups, and in Germany it is prohibited to give it to the over 65s. Our Doctor Popov agrees with the Germans.

For that matter, there is some mysticism regarding the Russian vaccine. It seems like its developers filed an application with the European Medicines Agency, though the agency denies this. As judged by the tweet, the application was indeed submitted, on 29 January, but with another organisation that does not deal with vaccines. I do not know whether this is politics or carelessness, but someone is clearly wasting precious time.

And, most of all, it is us who are delaying ourselves, when we do not wear masks and do not observe social distancing. I am against repressive measures, but it seems that things will only get worse if nothing is done. Some countries understand this, while others have yet to do so.