Professor of virology and chief of the government's scientific council Irja Lutsar said the council supports significantly stricter restrictions for unvaccinated people. A proposal will also be made to the government to give people with antibodies a short-term certificate of COVID-19 recovery.
"We cannot rule out that some restrictions have to be implemented if the situation goes forward in the manner it has. Vaccinations have not progressed at all and infections have progressed very well," Lutsar told ERR about a scientific council meeting on Monday.
She said significantly stricter restrictions should primarily be imposed on unvaccinated people, but the restrictions would ultimately affect everyone. "If the situation gets very bad, the people that have done everything correctly and gotten vaccinated will also be hit by these restrictions," the professor noted.
Lutsar added that the council also discussed the options of accepting a situation where a person does not have a certificate of COVID-19 recovery, but they do have antibodies. "I looked through the most recent literature. Everyone says the same thing: we do not know what the concentration of antibodies needs to be for it to provide immunity. At the same time, everyone is saying there is no other way to get antibodies than to be in contact with the virus," she said.
Lutsar said she will make a proposal to the government about a short-term certificate of recovery, but emphasized that it can only be used in Estonia.
Hospitals to limit scheduled treatments since elderly are unvaccinated
The scientific council head said the situation in hospitals is very serious, because while the goal was to keep hospitals running this fall, it is clearly visible that there are a lot of patients coming in currently.
"The University of Tartu Hospital already reduced scheduled treatments and that will likely be the case in other counties," Lutsar said. "This is an accident we could have seen coming. That our vaccination rates in risk groups are low does not come as news to anyone."
She agreed that infection and hospitalization indicators have also gone up in Nordic countries, which dropped coronavirus restrictions, but pointed out that the infection trends in Finland, Sweden and Norway tend to skew younger and there are largely no infections among the elderly. The opposite is happening in Estonia.
Lutsar added that Estonia's numbers are not as big of an issue as Latvia's and Lithuania's, but emphasized that Latvia's vaccination rate is not far behind Estonia's.
Public gatherings should be avoided
Lutsar said the established rules must be adhered to in addition to getting vaccinated. "I am constantly told that only a third of the people wear masks in shopping malls," she pointed out a case where people do not follow rules.
"Right now is likely the time where we need to think deeply about if we need this party we planned for the weekend. Everyone can start reducing the number of public gatherings," Lutsar said.
The virology professor said studies have shown how the efficacy of vaccines weakens over time, but still keeps the person from getting seriously ill. "I completely agree that if children get infected in school and go home to their vaccinated parents and grandparents and even if they do get infected, they will likely not suffer too seriously - a cough and a runny nose," Lutsar said.
She said the key to keeping schools open throughout the coronavirus wave is that people in contact with the students should be vaccinated.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste