Scientific council not backing closing society or schools

Irja Lutsar
Irja Lutsar Source: Gergey Lukecha/ERR

Head of the government's coronavirus advisory council Professor Irja Lutsar said that the body doesn't support closing society and reducing in-person contacts, on the grounds that this will not pay off in the longer-term.

Lutsar added in an interview she gave to ERR that, when deciding whether to close society, it has to be considered in parallel how to increase people's immunity.

"There are not many options for that: one is to recover from it and the other to quickly get the third booster shot," she said.

Lutsar mentioned that when people are not vaccinating, others need to wait until the unvaccinated people have recovered from the virus. "These first doses. I don't see any other opportunity to start recovering from this crisis."

Lutsar said that currently, the main problem is the heavy workload facing hospitals.

"As a rule, vaccinated people under 50-years-old don't need hospital treatment," Lutsar said. "They get infected, but the course of the virus is milder."

Lutsar said that there are principled opponents to the vaccines, and their views can't be changed. But the people who have reasonable fears can potentially be reached, she said. Furthermore, booster shots need to be continued with.

Lutsar says she considers it important the members of an at-risk group, health care personnel and teachers get vaccinated first and then, a couple of weeks later, others could get the third dose.

She specified that vaccinating with the booster doses should work in stages. "My preferred approach would be not to repeat our mistakes we made in spring, when vaccination was open for everybody and vaccination of the elderly was completely put on hold."

Closing schools not justified

Even though people have talked about extending the school holiday for a week or sending schools on distance learning, then Lutsar doesn't support it. "This is not a solution to the problem, third year of distance learning is extremely painful."

Lutsar said that schools should be the last places to be closed.

"There are quite a lot of classes where 80 percent of children are vaccinated, all teachers are vaccinated and will get their booster shots during the school holiday. It seems unfair to send these schools on distance learning."

Coronavirus wave will stay in the world for a long time

Lutsar considers it possible that the virus will keep on coming back in waves.

"Currently, I can't see the virus disappearing. Most of the world hasn't been vaccinated. In that sense, there are actually lot of vaccinated people in Estonia."

At the same time, Lutsar drew parallels with other viral diseases that do a lot of damage around the world but pass with mild symptoms for most people thanks to vaccination.

"It is also the case with many other diseases that immunity needs to be strengthened," Lutsar said. "Vaccines are one way to do this, but so are mild infections, which can happen with the flu in spite of vaccination. Mild infections are those that renew the immune system a bit and remind him how to make antibodies."


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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