Former Health Board emergency medicine chief Martin Kadai said that while there are more than 170,000 people with at least one vaccine dose administered and an estimated 100,000 people recovered from the coronavirus in Estonia, it is still too early to give restrictions completely.
Kadai told ETV's morning show "Terevisioon" that it is still too soon to talk about completely giving up restrictions as immunity has not reached the required levels. He added that the topic could be discussed once 50 percent of the population are vaccinated or have antibodies.
"It begins slowing down the disease's natural spread. If 50 percent of people are vaccinated or they are recovered, then we can talk about permanently giving up restrictions," Kadai said, adding that there are still many factors in play.
"What will the virus itself do? Is the developed immune system for previous virus variants and vaccine variants sufficient? There are still questions, but we should not get stuck in a crisis. If we keep society closed without justified risk, then it also brings very serious consequences," Kadai warned of a long-term strategy to exit the coronavirus crisis.
He emphasized that solving a crisis requires calculation and maneuverability in a situtation where there are few final solutions. "We must understand how long this virus will spread and what are our next logical steps. Most of the scientific circles have reached a consensus that the virus will likely turn endemic, but it does not mean the pandemic will last forever."
According to Kadai, it is important to explain to people what must be done to exit the crisis or pandemic as fast as possible.
Currently, people should be aware of a short-term crisis exit plan, which is based on what has happened so far, meaning restrictions cannot be dropped before infection rates have normalized and there is a downward trend, also expressed in hospitalizations. Kadai emphasized that the current situation is a crisis because of the increased burden on hospitals. He said that if people got infected by the thousands, but hospitals would remain operating on their regular level, it would not be a crisis.
"In actuality, the state should now what is important by now: is education important, is entrepreneurship important and so on," Kadai pointed out prerequisites for any further steps.
Not supportive of parallel societies
Responding to recent discourse about allowing more freedom to people who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, Kadai said that there have already been exceptions made for people who are vaccinated or recovered in the last six months - they do not have to stay quarantined after coming in contact with someone infected. He thinks that is reasonable and added that many European countries have not taken the step.
"Opening society to those vaccinated and recovered is a difficult and complex question. It can create a situation of inequality where we actually know that many people are not vaccinated not because they do not want to be, but rather because they do not have the option. If we create this dystopia where there are cinemas, theaters and other entertainment for the vaccinated and recovered and others must sit at home, I think this is a good way to finally lead society to conflict," Kadai said.
Discussing an option to create different restrictions for different groups in society, Kadai also noted that the pandemic is a crisis where solidarity is required. "We have been been in this crisis solidarily from the start and I think we must be in solidarity until the end. Because we could have said at the beginning that all people will not be affected by the disease, let those be careful who it affects. But that is not reasonable. And I tihnk it is not reasonable to create this unequal elite status for some people today."
Kadai also does not support a system like is in use in Israel, where people with vaccination passes can enjoy more freedom. "I hope we do not see Estonia in such dystopia. It is what these so-called flat-earthers talk about as a conspiracy. But if conspiracy becomes reality, it is no longer a conspiracy. I sincerely hope Estonia does not discover itself in such a society," the former Health Board official emphasized.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste