Numbers of people tested for coronavirus has fallen in last two weeks ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Coronavirus testing facility at Tallinn Airport.
Coronavirus testing facility at Tallinn Airport. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Coronavirus testing has decreased in recent weeks and the Health Board has said this could be due to a monitoring study which has just ended. But if the numbers continue to stay low then something could be wrong, the agency said on Monday.

A month ago, in mid-September, it was not uncommon for almost 3,000 coronavirus tests to be analysed each day after border testing was introduced. But over the two last weeks, the number of tests has dropped below 2,000 a day and there were less than 1,000 tests carried out both days this weekend.  

The Health Board said a monitoring study which ended last week tested 5,000 people which could have added between 400-500 primary tests each day.

At the same time, the spokesperson of the Health Board Eike Kingsepp said the smaller number of tests has attracted their attention as well.

"If the number of tests continues to be as low tomorrow, there is probably something systemic that we need to look at," Kingsepp admitted. She did not rule out the number of coronavirus samples taken at the border had also decreased.

Border testing on the rise

However, testing at the border - at Tallinn Airport, the Port of Tallinn and elsewhere - has increased in October, figures shared with ERR show.

During September, Synlab took 16,300 samples at borders of which 64 were positive. In the first 11 days of October, 8,400 tests have been performed at the borders and 37 positive cases were recorded.

Border testing added an average of 550 tests per day in September and more than 750 tests per day in October or about half of all tests.

People are not getting retested

Border testing was introduced on September 1 to reduce a two week quarantine to one week. The conditions are two negative tests, the first on entry to Estonia and the second one week later.

Synlab, which conducts border testing, says people do not tend to get tested for a second time. People have no motivation to retest if their first test was negative.

In theory, there should be exactly as many repeat tests as the primary border tests. But while a total of 10,751 first time tests were given at the airport, port and land border crossing in September, only half - 5,509 - of people were retested.

In October, the situation has improved so far with almost all people being retested.

The waiting time has been reduced

Synlab's head of Communications Gerly Kedelauk said the overall number of tests increased in September due to the start of the school year as many people were tested as a precaution or after experiencing symptoms.

But now people are sitting at home and waiting for the symptoms to pass without going to the doctor and taking a test, she said.

People may be afraid of waiting too long to get tested, but Kedelauk says the queue is now a thing of the past - up to 70 percent of people are now called to arrange a test on the day the GP arrives and most are asked to give a sample the next day. Only in small towns is there sometimes a waiting time of two days, as test buses visit only every other day.

Data

Data published by koroonakaart shows daily testing rates have fallen over the last two weeks. But, the period immediately before, the month of September to early October, had the highest testing rate of the whole pandemic so far. Before September 1, when testing at borders was introduced, it was rare to have a day when 2,000 tests were analysed.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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