Lutsar: Restrictions should be based on infections and deaths

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Professor Irja Lutsar. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

Restrictions should be based on the infection rate of the whole population and deaths from the last seven days, the government's scientific advisory council has said.

Speaking to ERR on Tuesday, Professor Irja Lutsar, head of the council, said the decision-makers are staring at a so-called traffic light of different indicators when creating rules and currently Estonia's deaths and infection rate are flashing red.

Lutsar did not say how low the rates must drop before the government should make its next decision on restrictions.

Looking at the infection over the last few days, the numbers have slightly decreased and Lutsar expressed hope that the effect of vaccination would start to show.

"The decrease in the number of infected people can be seen in key areas - Ida-Viru County, Lääne-Viru County, Tallinn and Harju County - but the infection rate is still very high. The decrease in the numbers is positive, but we're definitely not in a situation where we can relax," Lutsar said.

She also emphasized the need to stick to the current vaccination system which places emphasis on vaccinating older people. This is because the older a person is the more likely a person is to be hospitalized and die from the coronavirus.

This is why the scientific council suggested older generations aged 80+ should be vaccinated first, followed by those in the 70-79 age categories. Once 70-75 percent of the oldest age group has been vaccinated, the age limit can gradually be decreased.

"Why are we recommending it? If we look at the few countries that have used this tactic, such as Israel and the United Kingdom, the end result is very good. In eight weeks, Israel saw a decline in hospital admissions and the death rate. The same was seen in England and Scotland," Lutsar said.

She noted that in Ida-Viru County vaccination is progressing slowly. Currently, only 9 percent of people have been vaccinated in the region - the lowest rate in Estonia.

"Obviously, Ida-Viru County needs to be addressed separately so that Ida-Viru County does not remain the weakest link in this chain. There probably has to be a different strategy," Lutsar said. At the same time, she said, there are counties in Estonia where the majority of older people have been vaccinated already.

Lutsar emphasized that the AstraZeneca vaccine currently being offered to the elderly is a very good vaccine for those aged 55 and older. She said the ageing of the immune system is likely to play a role here, and that serious side effects seen in young people have not occurred in those aged over 60. This is also confirmed by the example of Great Britain.

"So at the age of 60+, the effect of the virus is thousands of times worse than the AstraZeneca vaccine. Honestly," Lutsar said.

According to our World In Data website, the infection rate in Estonia for the last seven days was 795.29 on April 5.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Helen Wright

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