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Estonia's coronavirus infection rate falls below 1

A coronavirus social distancing sign in Tartu.
A coronavirus social distancing sign in Tartu. Source: Helen Wright / ERR

Estonia's coronavirus infection rate - known as R - has fallen below 1, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said (Center) after a meeting with the government's scientific advisory council on Tuesday. The rate is currently between 0.9 and 0.95.

The infection rate falling below 1 means, that while the virus is still spreading, the infection rate is currently not rising.

"The further this indicator falls, the fewer restrictions we will need for everyday life in the future," Ratas said. However, despite the fall in the infection rate, he also said that are still concerns about the country's health care system.

"It is worrying that the disease is growing significantly in Pärnu County and the virus is still widespread in Harju County and Ida-Viru County," Ratas said.

He called for people to continue to follow the rules.

"The more carefully we follow the rules, the more children can go to school and we can continue our daily lives with as few restrictions as possible. We need to work together until the vaccination is available to people not in risk groups," Ratas said.

He said over the holiday period the virus had spread across Estonia but the restrictions put in place after had helped reduce the spread. "Both our current data and the results of research confirm that our behavior and the restrictions that guide it have an impact on the spread of the infection," he said.

The outgoing prime minister said, despite supply issues with the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, a second dose of the vaccination is guaranteed.

"This week, we will continue to vaccinate in nursing homes and start vaccinating healthcare professionals with the second dose of the vaccine. The expansion of vaccine target groups will be delayed by about a week," he explained.

R number and growth rate

The reproduction number (R) is the average number of secondary infections produced by a single infected person.

An R number of 1 means that on average every person who is infected will infect 1 other person, meaning the total number of infections is stable. If R is 2, on average, each infected person infects 2 more people. If R is 0.5 then on average for each 2 infected people, there will be only 1 new infection.

If R is greater than 1 the epidemic is growing, if R is less than 1 the epidemic is shrinking. The higher R is above 1, the more people 1 infected person infects and so the faster the epidemic grows.

R can change over time. For example, it falls when there is a reduction in the number of contacts between people, which reduces transmission. R increases when the numbers of contacts between people rise, leading to a rise in viral transmission.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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