West Tallinn Central Hospital (LTKH) chief physician and former Health Board emergency medicine chief Arkadi Popov told ERR that he would support reimplementing the use of rapid tests to enter public spaces and events. A similar proposal was made by the Riigikogu opposition recently, but it was not approved by the Reform-Center coalition partnership.
"I think these [coronavirus measures] must be balanced and two things can be implemented in parallel - coronavirus certificates, because we see mostly unvaccinated people requiring hospitalization and they are more in danger, but testing can also be a measure that helps, especially for major events. It has logic medically. And even if it is strange, I completely support it," Popov told ETV's morning show "Terevisioon" on Wednesday.
The Center Party member said that while rapid test sensitivity is around 80-85 percent, that can be compensated by sufficient testing. "It is certainly not a 100 percent sieve. In any case, 15-20 percent of the infected people do not have any symptoms, but they are already infectious and can enter public events. But that is better than nothing," Popov said.
The hospital chief said Estonia is approaching a breaking point in terms of the spread of the Omicron variant, where it will soon realize how dangerous the variant truly is. While data from South Africa is not entirely compatible with Europe, mortality rates were ten times lower than for the Delta variant and the hospitalization rates were also significantly lower.
"We can see that the Omicron strain is spreading very extensively in Estonia today, 80 percent of the 11,500 sequenced patients were infected with the Omicron variant and only five of them required hospitalization," Popov noted. "That is an important factor, which gives us information and we must think about how dangerous the variant is and what our next steps are at some point."
He added that World Health Organization (WHO) and Health Board data can be used to predict that Estonia is likely to have around 6,000-6,500 daily infections by the end of January. "In Europe, it will take five-six weeks to infect around 50 percent. That tells us that the Omicron strain is so powerful that we cannot fight it with the measures used today. We must think about what is to come," Popov said.
The hospital chief emphasized that the most effective measure to fight the Omicron strain is still vaccinations, because it also helps protect healthcare workers and groups of the population that have weaker immune system.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste