It is hoped this winter's coronavirus outbreak can be treated like influenza, the new head of the Health Board said on Wednesday, but new severe strains are not ruled out.
The aim is to keep society open and free of restrictions, Health Board boss Birgit Lao said during a live broadcast. However, what will actually happen depends on people's own behavior and vaccination.
"We assume that we can treat the autumn outbreak as an influenza outbreak. It is a presumption. This does not mean that the risks will not materialize or that a new strain will not occur which has more severe consequences than the third and fourth strains," Lao said.
Coronavirus has not yet been defined as a common infectious disease but it could be considered, she said. This would be a matter for the government's scientific advisory council.
"I'm quite a science-based person, I would not change that definition too easily, but if necessary, then why not," Lao said.
The Health Board has learned lessons about crisis management since the start of the pandemic and can handle problems that arise, Lao said.
There are plans to create a stronger, sample-based surveillance system, which will include family doctors, so new outbreaks and strains can be quickly detected along with their origin.
In the autumn, risk groups will receive a fourth vaccination, she said. An additional dose may also be offered to the rest of the population, but risk groups will be the focus of any future campaigns.
Discussing other methods of surveillance, Lao said both the University of Tartu's monthly study and the weekly wastewater survey will continue. The Health Board is also advising companies about their behavior during an outbreak.
Testing points will close, do to the reduced need for them, but will be reopened if necessary, she said.
As of Tuesday evening, the Health Board is not aware of any new COVID-19 strains.
Editor: Helen Wright