Infection with the COVID-19 virus is on the rise again in Estonia, where the number of hospitalized patients with COVID has doubled in the span of just one month. According to researchers, COVID variants currently making the rounds, while highly contagious, are mild.
Over the past month, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID has doubled. According to Toivo Maimets, director of the Scientific Advisory Board, it then follows that Estonia has reached the beginning of a growing wave.
"To be more precise, as of [Sunday, July 17], we have 99 people hospitalized with the virus," Maimets said. "Of these, five are in the ICU and two are on ventilators. These aren't huge numbers, but around 100 hospitalized patients is nonetheless what starts to increase the burden on hospitals."
There are currently 17 COVID patients being treated at the Infectious Diseases Clinic of West Tallinn Central Hospital (LTK), and the director of the hospital considers the current situation stable.
"Right now we don't have a single patient in the Level 3 ICU, and in general, all of those who are ill and currently hospitalized here for treatment are in moderate condition," LTK director Arkadi Popov said. "So generally they aren't in serious condition."
According to experts, behind these moderate cases is the BA.5 omicron subvariant of the COVID virus, which is currently the most widespread variant.
"The good news about the BA.5 omicron variant is that its symptoms, its presentation aren't significantly more serious than previous subvariants of omicron," Maimets explained. "And we can actually also see as much based on the number of [patients] requiring intensive care. But it is a bit more actively infectious than previous omicron subvariants."
According to Irja Lutsar, professor of virology at the University of Tartu (TÜ), the new COVID wave nonetheless arrived somewhat unexpectedly.
"It seemed as though a pattern were starting to emerge that each new wave arrives every 5-6 months," Lutsar explained. "Right now it looks as though — what we're seeing in Western Europe is that — the last wave doesn't even get a chance to end or case numbers drop very low before a subsequent new wave arrives."
Currently being more closely monitored is the emergence of the BA.2.75 subvariant of omicron, which has been found in 14 countries already. BA.2.75 has yet to reach Estonia.
Editor: Aili Vahtla