Masks save lives and reduce the risk of infection, head of the ambulance center of the North Estonia Medical Center Dr. Arkadi Popov has said.
Speaking on ETV's "Esimene stuudio" on Wednesday, Popov said he thinks people should be wearing masks to limit the spread of coronavirus - a subject which has split opinion among experts and politicians in Estonia for months.
"Every doctor today says that it is beneficial. There have been a number of articles on this that show that the evidence on this is there. This is also what the [government's] scientific council wants. Here, we have no dispute that wearing masks, in addition to reducing the risk of infection in principle, reduces symptoms. When an infection occurs, the amount of virus a person gets is less than when, for example, he or she becomes infected without a mask. Then more serious symptoms occur," he said, adding the more masks there are the more asymptomatic people there will be.
Popov believes people will start listening to so-called soft recommendations of the government and doctors and do not necessarily need new rules or bans.
"People have to quietly get used to the fact that the mask works. It should be an important tool in our lives. I believe that it is quite an effective tool, similar to social distancing," he said, adding wearing masks would probably be more popular then implementing more social distancing rules.
Popov said the Health Board is currently taking the right approach when identifying, dealing with and targeting the new outbreaks of coronavirus. He also said the virus has not changed or become milder since spring, as some people are claiming.
"We had high hopes for that, but in fact, scientific evidence says the virus hasn't changed so much. Some of the mutations make the virus worse rather than softer. So we have no hope that the virus will be any different compared to spring," he said.
He said there have been fewer hospitalizations because the virus has been spreading among young people in recent months, but as soon as it moves to a different age group the effects start to show.
"Now we are seeing that more and more 50+ people are getting sick and the percentage of hospitalizations immediately started to increase," Popov said.
Wearing masks in public has never been mandatory in Estonia as it has been in neighboring Latvia and Lithuania.
Editor: Helen Wright