Adding diagnoses of COVID-19 by family doctors to the number of lab-confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection significantly increases the overall number of cases of the disease in Estonia. As of Thursday, a total of 500 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 by their family doctors, just seven of whom have not yet been determined to have recovered.
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Estonia lacked the capacity to test everyone who fell ill, and so family doctors were granted the right to diagnose patients with COVID-19 without testing, reported ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera."
As of Thursday, 500 patients have been diagnosed with COVID-19 by their family doctors, most frequently in mid-March.
"We diagnosed according to clinical picture as well as other diagnostic criteria — whether they have been in close contact with a known COVID-19 patient, whether they have traveled from abroad or a risk area, as well as in cases where the patients were employees who had come in contact even professionally with COVID-19 patients," explained University of Tartu professor and family doctor Ruth Kalda. "In these cases, we made clinical diagnoses."
Of those to be diagnosed with COVID-19 by their family doctor, 181 were in Harju County and 93 were in Saaremaa. While figures for thee two counties were to be expected, a surprising number — 61 cases — were diagnosed in Viljandi County, where the number of cases was otherwise relatively low. According to Kalda, one reason for this may be the fact that those living in rural areas may have had a hard time reaching the drive-in testing site in Viljandi.
While the official number of COVID cases is increasing by nearly a quarter, the Health Board confirmed that the overall number of cases in Estonia is still relatively low.
"Yes, naturally those 500 cases are being added to the 1,700 that have already been confirmed by testing, but this nonetheless does not indicate a high prevalence [of the disease] of which we are unaware," Health Board director Merike Jürilo said.
While few individual new cases are being confirmed each day by now, drive-in testing sites will continue operating through the end of May in seven county seats across Estonia. The plan is to change the current system of testing in June or July.
"In any case, someone can access testing if they need and are exhibiting symptoms of COVID," Jürilo said. "In that sense, the barrier for testing will remain low so as to ensure that everyone who needs it can get tested, but first and foremost through their family doctor."
Editor: Aili Vahtla