Lutsar: Asymptomatic close contacts should be tested for coronavirus ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Coronavirus testing.
Coronavirus testing. Source: Mufid Majnun / Unsplash

Virology professor and head of the government's scientific advisory council Irja Lutsar has said asymptomatic close contacts should be tested for coronavirus as it is the only way to limit the spread of the disease.

In recent weeks, more and more cases of coronavirus are being recorded in people without symptoms. The share of new positive cases has also increased among total tests and is not above the recommended 3 percent.

"This shows that there are a lot of asymptomatic or mildly infected people somewhere that we can't reach," Lutsar said on Vikerraadio's "Uudis +" on Thurdsday. 

Lutsar said the only solution to control the spread of the virus in more and more extensive testing - but only in a targeted way. She is not in favor of testing indiscriminately as has been done in other countries, such as China.

Lutsar said that since the virus is increasingly being detected in people without symptoms in Estonia, it is very difficult to limit its spread. She said people who are living with someone who had tested positive should also be tested, even if they have no symptoms.

She mentioned the recent cluster of cases at a care home in Rapla County, where all the identified infections came from asymptomatic carriers, adding if an outbreak like occurs everyone needs to be tested as the first positive test will probably lead to more cases.

However, Lutsar emphasized that overreaction should definitely be avoided, for example, there is no reason to close schools and kindergartens proactively. Even countries with very strict measures, such as the closure of eateries, have still left schools open.

She said in countries which have experienced a big second wave of the virus, such as Spain and Belgium, there have been fewer deaths compared to the number of cases recorded as more testing has been carried out.

"These are very densely populated countries, the population density is high and they cannot control individual outbreaks," Lutsar said, warning that Estonia must prevent the virus from spreading. "I don't want to become the Czech Republic, where more hospitals and intensive care units have to be built. There are still rooms and beds, but there is no way to train intensive care staff in a week or a month."

Lutsar also warned that normal life will not return when a vaccine is found as its effectiveness is not yet known. 

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Editor: Helen Wright

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