Lutsar: Omicron infection comes with symptoms of simple cold

Irja Lutsar.
Irja Lutsar. Source: Kairit Leibold / ERR

Government scientific council chief and University of Tartu virology professor Irja Lutsar told ERR that cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus tend to come with symptoms reminiscent of a regular cold. She said campaigning for vaccinations should never have stopped in Estonia.

Psychologist Andero Uusberg told ERR that the coronavirus certificate is not an effective tool currently. The point for it becoming a pass was to motivate people to get vaccinated. Results are clearly visible - there were very few first-time vaccinations conducted last week compared to our yearly average. But if the Omicron variant is spreading so well, is there reason to reorganize the entire system and implement more rapid testing?

We must first see what we are fighting. Are we fighting a quickly spreading Omicron variant? If I look at data from South Africa now, their infection rates have gone down. If I look at data from South Africa, Denmark or the UK, hospitalization rates have not gone up significantly and intensive care indicators are also rather static.

If our goal is to avoid simple illnesses, coughs and runny noses, then we need different vaccines. We must first realize what we are fighting. Our fight should still be against serious infections and death.

Completely wiping this virus from the world is not possible for humanity with the current vaccines, in my opinion.

Booster doses and vaccinations certainly help. Should we restart major vaccination campaigns?

If I look at people coming to hospitals, there are armies of unvaccinated people. There is currently one person in intensive care, who is completely vaccinated but I do not know if they have gotten a booster dose. Everyone in intensive care has not gotten a single dose of coronavirus vaccine.

I think the vaccination campaigns should have never ended. Booster doses are naturally very important, but they can only be administered to those who have received two doses. If my calculations are correct, at least half of the population that can get booster doses have not done so yet.

South African experts think it is possible that it is not the virus strain, which causes lighter cases, but rather the population, which now consists of more immunized people who get through the illness easier. I think that is the final goal, which is not easily achievable, but we could do it in a few years. That people have been in contact with the infection or are vaccinated, so that even if they get infected, they recover.

How long do booster doses take to have an effect?

If we look at the available data, it is the seventh day after the booster dose. But it takes 14 days to have a significant effect.

At the same time, nothing is 100 percent. The person can get infected after a booster dose, but they will very likely recover simply and will not require hospitalization.

Should we also bring back rapid testing in major events to go with coronavirus certificates and passports?

Generally, testing people that have not been in contact with the virus can be more confusing than clear. If the person has symptoms, they should remain home even if a rapid test gives a negative result. One of the cons of testing is that they can offer a false sense of security, as well.

So, in conclusion: everyone with even the lightest of symptoms, such as a runny nose or cough, should stay home and isolated and there should be less panic in society?

Panic must certainly be eased in society, because we will not stop this new virus. Panic does not bring us anything good. Restrictions must have a reason.

The Brits looked at symptoms for the Omicron strain and said it is a light cough, sneezing and throat pain. Losing smell and taste is much less common. These are the symptoms of a simple cold. I think it is right to skip a party, even if you test negative.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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