The Omicron coronavirus strain is now the predominant variant in Estonia, the Health Board (Terviseamet) says. The speedy propagation of the strain means a fourth coronavirus wave is likely on its way.
Hanna Sepp, head of the board's infectious diseases department, said Wednesday that 55 percent of positive test results analyzed a day earlier turned out to be the Omicron variant, meaning that it is now the dominant strain.
Sepp added that the Omicron strain spreads faster than the Delta strain, with the number of cases doubling about every three days.
Its incubation period is also lower, at three days.
Ragnar Vaiknemets, Health Board emergency staff chief doctor, said that this will be followed by a fourth Covid wave in Estonia.
He said: "With the spread of Omicron, we can say that the fourth wave is imminent."
Chief of medicine for the Health Board's crisis headquarters Urmas Sule said Wednesday that an Omicron fourth wave would place a much greater burden on ambulances and doctors in the future, as opposed to hospitals, as had been the case in earlier waves, while canceled scheduled treatments in hospitals will be another likely outcome.
Sule said: "At year end, we will see a situation around 30,000 fewer scheduled treatments being carried out, adding that these would have to be put back to next year at a cost of around €40 million.
"Scheduled treatment for these people will be postponed to the new year and will cost around € 40 million," he went on.
Hospitalizations due to the virus itself, while not yet seeing a surge, may likely also follow, Vaiknemets said, while infections and spread within hospitals, including between staff, will be a key factor here.
Data from other countries does not suggest a new round of restrictions is required, however, he added.
Sule noted the case of Viljandi Hospital, which has had a Covid outbreak in which cases are identified early on, while sufferers do not experience severe symptoms, though added that there has been a rise in the number of younger people requiring hospital treatment due to Covid.
A third booster dose provides significant further protection as a whole, Vaiknemets said, despite the fact that vaccinated people have also contracted the Omicron Covid variant, while those 60,000 elderly people who are still unvaccinated also present a significant risk factor.
Editor: Andrew Whyte