Initial data shows that the coronavirus Omicron variant spreads faster than the Delta strain, but it seems to have lighter symptoms, Health Board infectious diseases department head Hanna Sepp said.
Sepp told ETV's current affairs show "Ringvaade" on Monday that there is no reason to worry too much about the Omicron strain. "Initial data, which has reached us from South Africa, shows that the virus does spread about two or three times faster than the Delta strain. Delta was a fast-spreading strain and quickly took over for all other strains. The new strain is even faster," Sepp said.
She noted that current data is still taken from Africa and there is little information about how the virus spreads in Europe. She said social habits and climate can also play a part.
The Omicron variant's effects on health are also being researched, but it seems as if the strain brings more lighter symptoms. "The cases reported from Africa and Europe have shown that it has been a more asymptomatic infection. There are very few serious cases," Sepp said.
"We will see how it will go in the context of Estonia and Europe. Middle-age Africans are most likely to be infected, lighter cases might be expected for them," the Health Board official said.
Although current infections have been lighter, Sepp said imposing arrival testing restrictions was a justified measure, since there is so little data about the new variant.
The Health Board announced over the weekend that there are two positive coronavirus samples taken in Estonia, which might be the Omicron variant. Sepp said the samples are still being tested, but the two people do not have any major symptoms. Both are also vaccinated.
It is still unclear if the current vaccines are effective against the new variant. Sepp said initial data shows that the Omicron strain is more powerful against antibodies from vaccination or recovery.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste