TÜ monitoring study: No widespread coronavirus infection in Estonia

A drive-in coronavirus testing site.
A drive-in coronavirus testing site. Source: Rene Kundla/ERR

The results of the second week of a monitoring study being conducted by the University of Tartu (TÜ) indicate that the spread of the novel coronavirus in Estonia remains low, suggesting that the relaxation of restrictions may continue. Researchers also briefed the government's crisis committee on the results.

Over the course of two weeks, a total of 6,024 randomly selected adult residents have been interviewed and 4,728 tested for the novel coronavirus. Of these, 12 tested positive for the virus, seven of whom had already been diagnosed prior to the survey, six in turn of which had already recovered by the time of the survey.

During the second week of the monitoring survey, 3,135 interviews were conducted and 2,495 tests administered. Of these, eight tested positive for the virus, six of whom had already been diagnosed prior to the survey. The first week's results were also expanded to include 226 tests, one of which came back positive.

TÜ professor and monitoring survey director Ruth Kalda explained that in assessing the actual prevalence of the virus, it must be taken into account that six infected persons had already caught the virus in March or early April and since been declared recovered. Thus, at the time of the survey, only half of infected persons could still be considered infectious.

Based on the results, it can be concluded that transmission of the virus is not widespread in Estonian society, and that the prevalence of the coronavirus has remained stable week after week. Researchers thus concluded that a step-by-step relaxation of restrictions imposed to help stop the spread of the virus is justified.

"As we can say based on the first two rounds that the spread of the virus in Estonia is low, then we can take a two-week break and then examine whether the reopening of shopping centers has had an impact on the spread of the virus," Kalda said. "If necessary, we will do another round ahead of Midsummer, and if the epidemiological situation is stable, we will continue monitoring the spread of the virus this fall."

The next round of the monitoring study is scheduled to take place from May 22-28, or nearly two weeks after the partial reopening of shopping centers across the country.

"We will continue our successful cooperation with University of Tartu researchers, whose research study is helping us evaluate the spread of the virus in society," Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said. "This will be even more important two weeks from now, when we can evaluate the impact of the relaxation of restrictions being implemented this week on the broader spread of the infection."

Another team of TÜ researchers on Monday launched a pilot coronavirus antibody study in Saaremaa and the Tallinn subdistrict of Õismäe aimed at assessing the number of people who have come in contact with the virus.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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