Health Board emergency medicine chief: Second COVID-19 wave may be tsunami

Martin Kadai on Wednesday's
Martin Kadai on Wednesday's "Ringvaade". Source: ERR

A second, particularly aggressive wave of COVID-19 coronavirus may be on its way, possibly in autumn, says Martin Kadai, head of the Health Board's (Terviseamet) emergency medicine department.

Speaking on ETV current affairs show "Ringvaade", Kadai added that nonetheless it was his belief the virus would eventually recede, and that it was not a "super virus", but at the same time the populace would probably need to learn to live with the virus' presence going forward.

"One possible scenario that has been modeled and looked at in the past with influenza pandemics is that this so-called second wave is much like a tsunami, like a big wave, and could be quite aggressive and serious," Kadai said.

As to what would happen if that were the case, Kadai said a return to the sort of measures implemented by the Estonian government from March 12 would be likely.

"This is one from several possible scenarios in which [the virus] would re-materialize, which would mean that any measures would have to be re-implemented."

As to the complete passing of the current wave, Kadai said that no predictions could be made as to when no people tested positive for the illness a few days in a row.

The past week has seen an average of about seven new cases of COVID-19 identified per day, with figures as low as two on some days. The daily total broke the 100-mark twice in late March/early April.

Health Board has several projections on how virus incidence might subside

Kadai said the Health Board had several possible scenarios on the table as to how the virus might subside.

"We are moving forward today with evidence that suggests the pandemic will continue for the next two years, but as it unfolds, different scenarios emerged. It is very likely that the disease will simply not go away. It is likely that it will recede by the summer, but may come back in the fall," he said.

Kadai added there are currently no prerequisites for the complete disappearance of the coronavirus, and that counter-measures themselves skewed what could be predicted for the virus if it were left to its own devices.

"We have to understand that we can't see the 'natural' course of the virus, we see the suppressed course of the virus. This doesn't mean winning out over the virus. Its embers continue glowing somewhere; the virus exists, it circulates and this means somewhere the virus has a chance to recur, to come back," he said.

"As of now, we still have no precondition for humanity to pick up sufficient immunity that the virus can no longer circulate. A very small percentage of people have suffered from it and will not be re-infected, but the rest are all susceptible," Kadai added.

At the other end of the pandemic's life-cycle, Kadai said that claims the virus might have appeared in Estonia as early as January, or even at the very end of 2019, as is now thought to be the case in other countries, could not be ruled out, nor in.

"This cannot be ruled out, but there is no evidence. We can certainly confirm that no unusual or abnormal illness had been detected at the end of last year or in January. When we got the opportunity to test in early February /.../, we instructed hospitals that people with viral pneumonia were being treated, and we do not know what the cause is, so you have to take a sample and send it for a coronary examination. But we have not identified anything from that period," said Kadai.

The first official case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Estonia in late February. The infected individual had been returning from a trip to Turkey, via Riga, and was taken to hospital upon arrival in Tallinn.

As for the approaching summer, Kadai said that while it would be a bit different from what people were used to, this didn't mean having to be confined indoors all summer either. Individual cases of the virus were likely to appear over summer despite any lull, he said.

"We need to be prepared to live with this virus," Kadai continued.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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