Lutsar: Increase in young people infection rate comes from more testing

Irja Lutsar.
Irja Lutsar. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The increased spread of COVID-19 among young people is related to them having a more active lifestyle compared to older people, said Irja Lutsar, head of the government's scientific council.

In Tallinn and Harju County, a large part of recent daily new cases is made up of school children. At the same time, there have also been many complete testings with infections discovered in hospitals, care homes, schools and in the Estonian Defense Forces.

While detailed analysis on why young people have been particularly receptive to the coronavirus does not largely exist, professor Lutsar considers it important that they have a more active lifestyle than older people. For example, many schools have not gone to distance learning and hobby groups are also largely active.

Lutsar told ERR: "It is the movement of young people and perhaps they spend more time together and do not sense the danger of the spread. If we compare with the spring period when schools were closed, all extracurricular activites were suspended, young people were not moving and secondly, if someone had a runny nose or a cough, they were not tested either."

The virology and medical biology professor says testing is the main reason why infection rates among young people have become a discussed topic - there have been many more discovered cases than in spring. "If there is an outbreak somewhere or an infection somewhere, the entire choir or group is tested and often tested once more after," Lutsar said.

She noted that there do not seem te be any mutations of the virus, causing older people to be less affected.

"I would not believe that theory until it has been proven. The studies I have seen show that it (COVID-19 - ed.) sticks on everyone. The question is how often people are tested and if older people stay at home more often and are not in contact with young people as much. They then have a smaller chance of receiving the infection than those who move around actively," the professor concluded.

Health Board chief: Choir rehearsals should be canceled until Christmas

Üllar Lanno said on ETV's morning show "Terevisioon" that canceling most infection spreading hobby activites is a strong recommendation but not a government directive just yet.

"Distancing for two weeks is the most effective restriction currently to stop the virus from spreading. It muffles the spread," Lanno said.

"Most infections are among high school children. What is the actual way of them meeting up? Hobby education, extracurricular activities - it is like a cement mixer, where healthy people from different schools come in contact with infected people," Lanno explained, adding that a choir rehearsal in Tallinn led to an outbreak of 15 in one meeting.

The virus does not affect young people as much as older people, Lanno added. At the same time, children take the infection home.

Joel Strakopf, head of the University of Tartu Hospital's crisis management team, said on the same show that staying in closed spaces for long time spreads the virus. "Be outside," Starkopf said.

He added that scheduled treatments in Tartu have not been suspended yet and there is no need for it currently. Plans have been drawn up however. "The situation around hospital beds is under control and calm," Starkopf concluded.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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