Head of scientific council not in favor of mass COVID-19 testing

Irja Lutsar.
Irja Lutsar. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

The head of the government's scientific council and University of Tartu virology professor Irja Lutsar said it is not reasonable to organize mass COVID-19 testing in Estonia to identify the spread of the virus as is planned in Slovakia.

Lutsar told ETV's morning show "Terevisioon" on Tuesday: "Everyone must know their country's details but testing everyone does not seem like a sensible use of money."

The scientific council head added that she would rather support directed testing, where certain groups that are predicted to test positive are instead tested.

"It is however sensible to continue monitoring studies that we have conducted since spring," the professor noted, expressing hope that the next wave of studies will receive a positive financing decision soon and work could start once again.

Lutsar explained that the study's samples are put together in accordance with the overall population of Estonia and distribution across counties. "And we will assess the spread of the virus according to the results," she added.

The professor said the current number of daily tests is enough. "Due to the peculiarities of reporting, the actual number of tests is even greater than what is conducted daily. We are actually testing rather well in Estonia," Lutsar said.

"Our number of positive tests is also not as large as it is when compared to the Czech Republic for example, where 20-30 percent are positive tests. We have than number at 3-4 percent," the virology professor said.

Scientific council calls people to test and act reasonably

Lutsar admitted that data from family physicians shows that some people avoid testing thinking the process is unpleasant and even dangerous.

"Perhaps people are deterred by stories of testing being disgusting. True, it is not the most pleasant test, I agree, but it also is not anything a person should not be able to handle. I have not heard anyone developing any side effects from testing. And it is certainly not possible to get into your brain with that test. I would still call on people to come test," Lutsar said.

Testing is also important because then all close contacts can be traced and recent developments in Harju County and Tallinn show that people are not aware of where they have received the novel coronavirus, Lutsar noted.

The professor said it is not yet clear if the recent hike is caused by the school break on October 19-25. "It is likely not the result of the school break. If we are looking at the structure of infected people in October or since the school break, the profile of infected people shows that people aged 25-65 are most prevalent. Infections among children and young people aged up to 25 have not increased. Their numbers have remained marginally lower than the work-aged population," Lutsar said.

The same can be seen in daily updates regarding infection, where workplace outbreaks are by far the most common, with some schools also listed. "Infections happen in the workplace currently," Lutsar said.

Speaking on virus alleviation measures, Lutsar emphasized the already known methods: Stay home when sick, maintain physical distance and masks could be worn in rooms without sufficient distancing.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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