The government's advisory scientific council assessed that it is still too early to start easing coronavirus restrictions.
The scientific council decided on Monday that it is still too early to ease the existing restrictions, ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Monday.
Although infection rates and hospitalizations have decreased, the uncertainty around the new Omicron variant has caused the council to recommend a waiting position in terms of easing restrictions on entertainment venues.
Scientific council head Irja Lutsar said there should be more data on the Omicron strain at the start of next week, which the scientific council and government can then use to make further decisions. All that is known about the variant now is that it spreads faster than other variants, but it is still unknown how well it can avoid immunity and how serious the illness is.
"If we were still in the previous situation with only the Delta variant, we could have eased restrictions. But there is a new unknown - the Omicron variant. We should wait until we have more data. It is very hard to make decisions, if there is no data. The only thing we know is that it is spreading in almost all European countries, including Estonia," Lutsar said.
"Our recommendation was to wait a week with easing restrictions," the virologist told ERR, adding that the government sitting to discuss easing restrictions will not take place on Tuesday.
"What this Omicron variant can do is a major question - we do not have a good answer for it currently. We know South African researchers have published an article, which shows that people who have already had the coronavirus can also get infected with the Omicron," Lutsar added.
She specified that it is only one non peer-reviewed publication, but it does point out that earlier immunity can be less efficient against the Omicron strain. "Putting together the whole picture and knowing that a whole row of lab work should end this week, we are significantly smarter next week," Lutsar said.
She added that the Omicron variant makes up some 1-2 percent of all cases in the U.K., which is heavily monitoring the spread. Lutsar said the variant is spreading so well in South Africa, because there are very few other variants spreading there otherwise.
"It seems to me like activities involving children should be available and that is very important," Lutsar said. "Taking a child to the theater is a part of education. And working out, especially outside - these activities should be available for everyone."
Editor's note: This article was updated with additional comments from Irja Lutsar.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste