The incidence of COVID-19 coronavirus in Estonia can only start to decline when carriers pass on the virus to an average of less than one more individual, according to one mathemetician. At the same time, the expert said that the real figure of those carrying the virus could be between five and 20 times higher than the number of confirmed cases.
The turning point, where the virus numbers either start to decrease or continues to grow to the extent that the Estonian healthcare system gets overloaded, is likely to be in mid-April, the expert, mathematician Krista Fischer, said on Wednesday evening's edition of ETV topical show "Ringvaade".
"The spread of an epidemic depends on a number of factors. First and foremost, how easily it can be transmitted from person to person, how long a person remains infected and how many contacts that individual has. These three become a multiplier, or R0 (R-zero), which indicates how many people get infected by one individual," Fischer said.
Prior to the emergency measures being imposed in Estonia (on March 16-ed.), one infected individual transmitted coronavirus to an average of two or three people, which meant the number of cases increased exponentially, Fischer said.
However, with the restrictions, which at the time of writing include closed schools, public gatherings limited to two people (families excepted) and from Friday, closed shopping malls, this coefficient will fall below one – the watershed figure for the pandemic to start to decline, Fischer said.
At the same time, she could not venture to say whether the coefficient had reached that level in Estonia yet.
"I wouldn't dare to say it's under one," she said.
Confirmed cases tip of the iceberg
Fischer also said that the confirmed positive cases arising from tests – currently 404 in Estonia – make up only between 5 and 20 percent of actual infections, meaning there could be potentially thousands of actual individuals infected with the coronavirus in the country at present.
Fischer noted that the number of deaths will certainly depend on how well the elderly are shielded from infection. There has been one death from coronavirus in Estonia so far; an 83-year-old woman died in a Tallinn hospital on Wednesday.
Fischer also said that the primary worry was the meltdown of the healthcare system as the virus spreads.
"What we're most concerned about is that there won't be so many cases that our health system gets overloaded," she said.
Crisis point comes in mid-April
Fischer also said that under the worst-case scenario, which would be working on the assumption that the restrictions in place were not working at all, the health care system in Estonia would reach this critical point in the first half of April, by which time there would be more than 10,000 people infected.
In the most positive scenario, the virus would start to recede around that time - the second week of April, Fischer said.
Editor: Andrew Whyte