Head of the government's scientific council and virology professor Irja Lutsar told ERR she does not want to confirm that Estonia has reached the plateau of the second wave of COVID-19 yet.
"We are a small country, we have seen that numbers swing from one side to the other. We have seen time and time again - another outbreak in a care home, there are quite a few currently. I think there is no reason to loosen our belts. I would not yet dare say that this thing is over. Let's keep a low profile when it comes to this virus," Lutsar said.
She explained that the number of hospitalized patients has remained around 400 because the virus spread among younger people during the holidays and they do not require treatment in hospital as often. But if infections among 70-80 year olds were to go up again, the number of hospitalizations will also go up as 40 percent of 80+ patients need treatment.
"This is exactly why care homes and institutions have been prioritized for vaccinations, their residents and employees as well," Lutsar said.
The art of easing restrictions
According to Lutsar, the government has to be careful when easing restrictions so what happened in Ireland would not happen in Estonia. Two weeks ago, Ireland's infection rate per 100,000 people over last 14 day was 285, it is 1,443 as of Friday, January 15.
"Ireland was stuck in November, when their restrictions worked - infections went down nicely. But then there was a desire to please their people for Christmas. In large part, the same thing happened in England - everything was opened up. The phenomenon that we have tried to avoid in Estonia, that I have not been able to go the pub for weeks, which has a completely different effect in Ireland. And now everything is open and I must go today. Keeping people in their homes and then releasing them at once, it is likely one of the reasons," Lutsar explained.
"Leading an outbreak is exceptionally delicate: restrictions can be established suddenly but they can only be removed very carefully," the scientific council head noted.
Thursday's government decision to open restaurants for the daytime was originally a scientific council recommendation, as weather conditions do not allow for people to eat outside. The goal of the directive to open restaurants between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. still is to not allow for gatherings to take place.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste