Former Undersecretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs Maris Jesse says she agrees that the coronavirus certificate in its current form is no longer needed domestically. It may also disappear from international circulation by the summer, she added.
Jesse said that when talking about easing the current Covid restrictions, which have been in place for three months now, it must be borne in mind that these have been very lenient in Estonia compared with many other countries, including its immediate neighbors.
"Certainly, the titles of removing or relaxing such international restrictions simply cannot go hand in hand, but need to look deeper into the subject," Jesse said.
"We currently have two real restrictions: Most people who have recovered from Covid or been vaccinated in six months can participate in society, i.e. certain people have been restricted from participating in society. Another bigger restriction is the entertainment curfew, at 11 p.m.," she said.
The 11 p.m. curfew was temporarily lifted over Christmas and New Year's.
At the same time, Jesse said that it is necessary to assess whether the restrictions continue to fulfill the purpose and whether the purpose is more necessary.
"Restricting access to larger public places or events on the basis of evidence alone had one health purpose - unvaccinated people are at higher risk of infection than vaccinated people," she continued.
"It is immediately known that if we are talking primarily about a group at risk that needs potential hospital treatment, their decision to vaccinate will not be affected by going to the cinema or café on the basis of evidence. These are predominantly different age groups," Jesse commented.
She noted that now that the omicron strain is actively spreading among those who have been vaccinated the health policy goal is weakened.
"Restricting evidence-based participation in society may not serve its purpose in this form, but we must be aware that the virus is currently at a high rate of spread," Jesse added.
She recalled that the coronavirus certificate first arose from the need to prove, when traveling internationally at the border, whether a person had suffered from the virus or had been vaccinated in order to get out of quarantine. Domestic use only followed later.
As a person familiar with the sector's bureaucracy, she considers it likely that EU tourism-oriented countries will abandon the corona certificate rather than grafting the results of a quick test.
"It can be difficult to introduce additional rules to what has already been agreed in the form of a quick test. There are predictions about what the EU could look like in March-April, but new factors may also interfere. Agreements are hampered by the fact that different countries have contributed to the evidence in different ways, and some countries, especially those with a greater interest in tourism, may be more willing to abandon the use of the certificate when landing within the EU," Jesse commented. "Negotiations between the Member States can be difficult, but there is still time."
It is a matter of ending the domestic use of coronavirus certificates. Jesse acknowledges that they no longer serve their purpose.
"What does this certificate show us? That people have suffered from the virus. Does this previous outbreak protect against omicron? It doesn't actually. It shows that this person is at a lower risk of needing hospitalization because he has been exposed to the virus, either through vaccination, recovering from it or both. It is, therefore, necessary to consider the purpose and value of the national use of this evidence," Jesse said.
At the same time, she is not in favor of ending the use of certificates on a day-to-day basis: "It is certainly not sensible to end the use of evidence on a day-to-day basis, but it should though through what are the behavior recommendations for people."
Therefore, she continues to attach importance to safe behavior - wearing a mask, keeping a distance, and rapid tests before going to events or public places to rule out asymptomatic infections.
With regard the omicron strain, Jesse says she does not consider it important to confirm all positives by PCR tests.
"There are definitely more false negatives in rapid tests, but if it already shows a positive result, the PCR test usually doesn't provide additional diagnostic information. Yes, genotyping can be done on the PCR test, but it can also be done selectively," Jesse said.
However, Jesse does not want to say whether and when to give up rapid tests and start treating the coronavirus like other viral diseases.
"It needs to be agreed between different fields. It is not wise to remove rapid testing right now, but it is also unreasonable for everyone to express their personal opinion in the media. It is right to come up with a new diagnostic guide after discussions between different fields," Jesse said.
Editor: Roberta Vaino