Tartu University: Coronavirus infections have tripled in a few weeks

Ruth Kalda of the University of Tartu.
Ruth Kalda of the University of Tartu. Source: Aavo Kaine

A monitoring study led by the University of Tartu reveals that the number of infectious adults in Estonia has at least tripled compared with mid-November. At the same time, people are following government-imposed restrictions more carefully than before, wearing masks and refraining from physical meetings.

During the stage of the study that was conducted from 26 November to 6 December, a total of 2,380 adult individuals were tested, 30 of whom tested positive. Half of them had symptoms, the other half were asymptomatic. Many people with light symptoms regarded themselves as healthy until giving a positive test. Researchers estimate that there are 1.3 percent or about 14,000 carriers of the infection in the Estonian adult population.

The head of the survey, the University of Tartu Professor of Family Medicine, Ruth Kalda, said that the spread of the virus is epidemic. "This means that the number of infected people is rapidly growing and it is possible to be exposed to the virus nearly anywhere. This is why it is essential to wear a mask, keep a safe distance in crowded areas, stay home even with light symptoms, and contact your family physician for testing," Kalda explained. 

Most people respect the restrictions

The study also analyzed changes in people's behavior. The results show that differently from summer and early autumn, all population groups have become more cautious in their behavior and started taking protective measures more seriously. The percentage of those who say they do not do anything to prevent the disease is as small as in spring; that is, about two or three percent of the population.

While during the coronavirus wave in spring, face masks were mostly worn by middle-aged and older people, now nearly 90 percent of all the respondents wear masks. Compared to the study stage conducted in November, the percentage of those who keep a safe distance has also risen sharply.

However, it has to be admitted that although people are avoiding large gatherings, there has been no change in participating in events with up to 20 people. Socializing with such groups is most common among young adults. 

While the number of people staying at home is increasing, it is mostly the elderly people who try to do so. "We can see that refraining from gathering in such small groups could be another important step that every person could take to slow down the spread of the virus," Kalda said. 

Seventeen researchers from five institutes of the University of Tartu participate in conducting the survey. Synlab and Kantar Emor are involved as partners.

More information on the study is available on the University of Tartu website.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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