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COVID-19 guidelines for the autumn-winter virus season

The Health Board has put together information to keep in mind during this virus season. There are currently no restrictions or obligations in place regarding COVID-19. However, it is worth reminding yourself how to prevent infection, when to get tested for the virus and who should consider vaccinating against COVID-19 this season.

  • Where to get information on COVID-19 morbidity?

The Health Board continues to publish weekly epidemiological reviews with data on morbidity and the spread of the virus. All data is available on the website of the Health Board (in Estonian).

  • What is the prediction of the Health Board for the current virus season?

The severity and epidemiological threat level of this autumn-winter influenza and COVID-19 season depend directly on the virus strains and the population’s post-recovery and post-vaccination immunity. As there are many relatively mild and asymptomatic forms of COVID-19, the virus continues to spread silently and in waves. At present, the intensity of morbidity is average and on a moderate upward trend.

  • How can I protect myself against COVID-19 infection?

In order to prevent any virus diseases, it is important to adhere to general hygiene rules: wash hands regularly, cover your nose or mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing, and stay home if you show signs of illness.

  • What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

It is not possible to identify the virus disease purely based on symptoms. COVID-19 infection may be manifested by mild symptoms of the common cold: rhinitis, cough, fever, fatigue, general weakness, sore throat etc.

Regardless of the type of illness, it is necessary to stay home if you show any symptoms.

  • What should I do if I suspect I have COVID-19?

If you show any symptoms, it is recommended to contact your family physician for advice on testing and treatment. For people in the risk group, the test result could be useful to plan future COVID-19 vaccinations. In case of symptoms, you should stay at home regardless of the COVID-19 test result.

  • What should COVID-19 close contacts do?

Close contacts are advised to monitor their health for five days. If you show any signs of illness, you should stay home. The principle applies to all viral respiratory infections. 

  • Is regular COVID-19 rapid testing necessary?

Prophylactic testing (ie of asymptomatic people) is generally not recommended.

  • When is it necessary or reasonable to test for COVID-19?

Testing is not mandatory. COVID-19 testing may be considered in case of symptoms. Knowing the COVID-19 test result and when you last recovered from the disease is useful for planning vaccination.

  • What to keep in mind when using rapid tests?

Rapid tests should be used within the first four days of the disease, as this is when the virus is most concentrated in the body. As the initial symptoms of COVID-19 resemble those of other acute respiratory infections, you should avoid direct contact with other people and follow personal hygiene rules to prevent the spread of infection. Keep in mind that a person can be infectious even before symptoms occur and after acute symptoms have passed, but the antigen test cannot detect the virus.

  • Are masks and other restrictions to be expected this season?

COVID-19 is no longer a novel or dangerous disease. We no longer have a global pandemic, making extensive nationwide restrictions very unlikely. Wearing a mask should be considered if an infected person has to go out for a short period of time or go home when ill. Institutions, especially high-risk health care institutions, have the right to impose temporary restrictions based on the regional or national epidemiological situation. More serious restrictions may be considered if there is a new strain that causes very serious cases and leads to a high need for hospitalisation.

  • Who should vaccinate against COVID-19 this virus season?

This season, the expert committee on immunoprophylaxis recommends vaccination to people belonging to the risk group, ie mainly people 60+ years of age. This applies if it has been more than six months since the last vaccine or recovery from COVID-19. Vaccination is free of charge.

  • Where can I get vaccinated against COVID-19?

Vaccination of risk groups takes place primarily in family physician clinics and vaccination offices of hospitals and private clinics.

  • Is the new COVID-19 vaccine available?

The new vaccine adapted to the XBB1.5 strain is available at vaccination points.

  • How much of the new vaccine is purchased this year?

As a result of the amendment to the Pfizer contract, around 82,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine against the XBB1.5 COVID-19 strain arrived in Estonia this autumn.