Lutsar: Education should be first to open once infection rate drops

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Professor Irja Lutsar. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Virology professor and head of the government's scientific council Irja Lutsar said establishing strict restrictions usually brings a decrease in infections. She also emphasized that while it is too early to speak about easing restrictions, the first sector to do so in would be education.

Lutsar said the scientific council's gathering on Monday did not see any new restrictions discussed as the government decided to establish restrictions already. Instead of restrictions, the council analyzed the so-called British strain's spread in Estonia, a motivating factor in this week's restrictions.

The council also discussed how restrictions could be eased once infection rates improve. Lutsar said that restrictions will lead to improvements in infection and the first sector to re-open should be education. "If we look at what has happened in Europe, I cannot name a single country who has not improved after establishing restrictions. The result of establishing restrictions has been a strong drop for all countries," Lutsar noted.

In a social media post on Monday, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) wrote that nearly 75 percent of all analyzed tests by Synlab over the last week contained specific mutations, such as the so-called British and South African variants. Of those mutated samples, 98 percent were the British strain.

The scientific council also assesses that the spread of the British variant is likely the main factor behind the growth in infection rate recently. The strain is more aggressive and even more contagious than others.

Lutsar said mutations in Estonia are monitored weekly. "All analyses show that the British strain is on the rise in Estonia. The dispersal capacity of the strain is up to 1.3 to 1.5 times greater. It can somewhat explain high infection rates in some regions," she said.

The South African variant has not spread in Europe as much

About the South African variant of COVID-19, the virology professor noted that one study has shown the AstraZeneca vaccine as ineffective against the strain. The study was not too thorough however, according to Lutsar.

"The South African variant has not spread in Europe as much. It is pretty widely dispersed in Africa. At the same time, in South Africa, where the strain is the most common strain, infections are dropping," Lutsar said.

She said the strain spreads much slower than the British variant. "It seems this British strain is taking over the entire population," the scientific council head said.

The virology professor also added that all vaccines currently in use are effective against the British variant and that limiting contact with other people is most important.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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