Experts: Your health is your own responsibility this winter

Toivo Maimets and Birgit Lao
Toivo Maimets and Birgit Lao Source: ERR

Health experts are advising people to look after their own health and take responsibility during the next COVID-19 wave this winter.

The Health Board and the government's scientific advisory council held a public discussion on Friday to discuss the upcoming winter. Their aim is to keep society as open as possible, they said.

Council head Professor Toivo Maimets said the number of new cases is rising in the region and the number of hospitalizations in Estonia is being monitored. Hospitals are prepared for winter.

"The previous corona waves also started in July. Right now the situation is mild. Let's see how it goes. New waves happen due to cooperation between humans and viruses. The virus mutates, but how we behave is also important," he said.

Head of the Health Board Birgit Lao said people can do a lot themselves to avoid or reduce the risk of infection.

"For example, assess whether they need to go to a place with a high risk of infection, such as a concert. Individual critical risk assessment is important," she said.

Current situation is not serious

While last year it was said there were 600-bed spaces for coronavirus patients, and once full restrictions would be imposed, this year the line is more blurred.

"You cannot say exactly where the hospital system's red line is," Lao said. New beds will be opened when 200 coronavirus patients are being treated.

Discussing scenarios that could lead to new restrictions she said if hospital staff are overburdened or sick, or if outpatient and scheduled treatment has stopped.

Maimets said the situation is in the yellow category of the government's risk matrix and is not serious yet.

"We must be flexible, look at several parameters. Omicron-5 if filling hospitals, but not intensive care units. Likewise, not everyone hospitalized is there because of Covid-19. We will look, for example, at how many COVID-19 patients there are in the hospital," he said.

Vaccination is still the best course of action against the virus, Maimets said.

"If we're looking for methods that prevent serious illness and death, the first step is vaccination. Three doses are better than two, and we've always emphasized that two doses is no longer a full vaccination course. A completed course is three doses. Even in the case of Omicron-5, which is different from all previous strains, the vaccine helps," said Maimets.

Restrictions not appropriate now

Lao said the Health Board does not consider national-level restrictions necessary at the moment.

Maimets said masks have been proven to be effective and people need to think about whether, and where, they need to wear one this winter.

Lao added no rules need to be imposed at the moment because the risk level is mild. It is not yet known if coronavirus passes will be reintroduced this winter.

Both experts reiterated people need to look after their own health this winter.

"We hope that a person knows what the virus is and based on this knowledge makes important decisions for himself. Relying on a person's own wisdom is the right course of action at the moment. We will do well in the fall, if the virus mutations do not offer any surprises," said Maimets.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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