Lutsar: Government's white paper is a big step forward

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Irja Lutsar.

The government's newly announced white paper, which lays out a plan for how to live with the coronavirus and exit the crisis, is a "big step forward", Professor Irja Lutsar said on Thursday.

Speaking during an interview on ETV's "Esimene stuudio", Lutsar, who is head of the government's scientific advisory council, said: "The white paper is like a plan with views about how to move forward. Of course, not every scenario that comes up can be written in, but a plan is better than no plan. I think it's a big step forward. What are our [the scientific council's] views? The priorities are also there."

One idea is to create regional restrictions, but they do not always work.

"The scientific council recommended regional approaches in December. The danger was that if a spa in Narva, for example, were closed, people would go to a Rakvere spa, and that's exactly what happened. But hardly anyone goes from Tallinn to Haanja [in Võru County] to school, so in some places regionalism may work again. Flexibility must be included in the White Paper," said Lutsar.

She said due to the size of the population and other unique factors, it is reasonable to establish regional indicators. "There are areas, like the islands, where you can take a slightly different approach," Lutsar said.

The government's new traffic light system can be viewed here. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas' political statement about the white paper can be read here. The paper can be viewed online in Estonian.

Vaccination of the elderly is and will be a priority

Lutsar said the experience of last weeks mass vaccinations will help the government develop better plans. The mass vaccinations were a failure in the sense that older people did not want to go to them, only younger people were keen. The leftover vaccines were used by family doctors for risk group patients this week.

"Apparently, mass vaccinations are not suitable for older people, it is suitable for younger people. /.../ The vaccines do not go bad right away - if we had vaccinated younger people, older people would not have been able to get vaccinated this week, said Lutsar.

She said older people are still the priority and reiterated the council's recommendations that younger groups can start being vaccinated when 70-75 percent of this group have been vaccinated.

Lutsar also encouraged younger people who have had their first dose of AstraZeneca to get the second. "If there were no problems with the first dose. If there was, you should talk to your family doctor," she said. Estonia suspended giving new doses of the vaccine for the under 60s on Wednesday.

She did not agree with proposals made by the Germans that people should receive a second dose of Moderna or Pfizer instead. "Theoretically, it is not a bad recommendation, but there is no data on it at all. We cannot recommend it," she said.

Concerns over South African strain

Lutsar said the South African strain of coronavirus has started to be found more often in Estonia. It is now being brought to Estonia from neighboring countries.

Lutsar said it was a little worrying. "We are watching this very carefully. And there will be other interesting mutations in addition to the South African strain," she said.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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