The spread of the Omicron variant is unlikely to cause the state to establish a complete lockdown, Health Board acting director general Mari-Anne Härma told Vikerraadio's morning show "Vikerhommik" on Tuesday.
"Looking at what is going on in other countries, it seems unlikely that we can achieve much by trying to restrict this virus. I would dare say the first month of Omicron will be rather scary. But for some reason, I do not think we should go into a lockdown," Härma said.
She noted that the Omicron variant is currently spreading among young people and has not yet reached the elderly population. "The most critical moment would be to see how the virus acts among the older population of Estonia."
The Health Board acting director noted that there are still quite a few unvaccinated older people. "We do not know how it will act for them. I would not be bold here and promise that it will be mild, but initial data provides hope that it might be a little milder, than previous variants" Härma said.
She added that the spread of the Omicron strain has not brought along an increase in hospitalizations.
Härma said that while symptoms showed themselves in around five days for the Delta variant, current experience shows that symptoms for the Omicron variant appear in three days. "Since the Omicron strain multiplies very quickly, there is the danger of the number of cases going up four-fold in one week," the geneticist said.
She called on people to get vaccinated because the recovery is significantly milder for those vaccinated.
The Health Board official added that it is still too early to make conclusions based off New Year's celebrations, but the consequences of the Christmas period can already be seen.
"The main cause for the increase in outbreaks in Tartu stems from Christmas celebrations. These gatherings have an effect, especially in the light of the Omicron strain, for which we know that it also spreads among vaccinated people, but they can participate in all these events with a coronavirus certificate," Härma said, adding that general sense of danger has decreased some and people have more social contacts, which is why it is easier for the Omicron variant to spread.
"We will look at the consequences of the New Year's Eve celebrations next week, but there will likely be some, there always has been," Härma noted.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste