Lutsar: Wearing masks in school should be recommended

Irja Lutsar, chief of the government's coronavirus advisory council.
Irja Lutsar, chief of the government's coronavirus advisory council. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

A unified recommendation for mask-wearing should be agreed across the country, especially in schools, head of the government's research council, professor of virology Irja Lutsar told ERR on Tuesday.

Questions about wearing masks have been raised in recent weeks due to the increasing number of vaccinated people in Estonia. Currently, it is still recommended to wear face masks or coverings.

She said that the mask recommendation could apply to hospitals and nursing homes, but that the final choice should be made by the head of each institution separately.

"The epidemiological situation in Estonia is definitely improving, no one doubts that. There are clearly two pockets [of infection] left in Estonia: Ida-Viru County and Valga County," said Lutsar.

She said the number of people being treated in hospitals has fallen and continues to do so. As of Tuesday, 122 people are being treated in hospital compared to more than 700 in March.

"Now that the infection rate is lower, there is the summer period and there is hope that enough vaccines will arrive in the country, we should focus very heavily on vaccination," the professor said.

Ida-Viru County's low vaccination coverage rate is a problem

Lutsar said as only 31 percent of the over 80s are vaccinated in Ida-Viru County, this is of clear concern. She said this is a social problem.

Lutsar said the region could be dealt with by social scientists and people who understand the community.

"I strongly encourage young people who want to go to a concert or on holiday somewhere to get vaccinated: take your grandparents, older neighbors and acquaintances with you when you go for vaccinations," Lutsar said.

She pointed out that in the autumn it may be necessary to close schools in Ida-Viru County again, as the virus may spread more strongly there.

European travel restrictions are a mess

Lutsar said many European countries are too cautious about travel restrictions and highlighted Germany and Finland as examples where it is necessary to take multiple tests.

"Unfortunately, the European Union cannot agree on common rules and that is very sad. I think we could agree on rules, I think we have enough brainpower in Europe to do that and to follow those rules," Lutsar said.

At the same time, she advised all people who come to Estonia from abroad to get tested for coronavirus at Tallinn Airport in order to avoid bringing in foreign strains, especially the Inda strain. 

Lutsar clarified that for the sake of political correctness, the World Health Organization has changed the names of the virus strains: the British strain is now called alpha, the South African strain is beta and the other Indian strain is called delta.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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