Study: People less likely to change their behavior after COVID-19 contact

Coronavirus testing starts at Tallinn Airport.
Coronavirus testing starts at Tallinn Airport. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

There has been a rise in the number of people who do not change their behavior after possible contact with an infected person, the University of Tartu's study on the prevalence of coronavirus reveals.

The latest study shows the number of infected people has doubled in Estonia over the recent month and that the virus is spreading in all counties. Compared to December, people have started to travel much more extensively in Estonia.

In total, 2,362 people were tested for the coronavirus prevalence study from January 7 to 18. Fifty-five people tested positive; 9 of them had had the disease, 46 were still contagious. It should be pointed out that 45 percent of those infected had no symptoms of the disease.

The results show that 2.3 percent of the adult population in Estonia is currently contagious, approximately 24,400 people, or one in 43 adults. In comparison, according to the study stage conducted before Christmas, the proportion of contagious adults in the population was 1.2 percent.

The head of the monitoring survey, University of Tartu Professor of Family Medicine Ruth Kalda said that in the light of these results, the relaxation of restrictions is not possible in the near future.

"To avoid the risk of hospitals being overwhelmed in a few weeks, it is vital that all people follow the safety precautions in place," Kalda explained.

Small-group gatherings and domestic travel have increased

Kalda said the results of the survey show the growth in infection rate probably results from visits and smaller social gatherings held during the holidays.

Compared to the previous study stage, participation in larger events and visiting late-night entertainment venues has dropped to almost non-existent.

However, attending events in groups of up to 20 people has become more frequent, mostly among young adults. While before the holidays, 30 percent of the respondents did it, now it was nearly half of the representatives of the younger age group. Also, movement between counties has increased among young adults.

The study reveals the number of people who have possibly been in contact with an infected person, as well as the number of those who did not change anything in the behavior after such contact, has risen. Whereas in the previous stage of the study, a third of those who had had possible contact with an infected person said they did not change their behavior afterward, now 40 percent of the respondents said so.

"Considering the widespread of the virus, the number of those exposed to infected persons is expected to have grown. On the other hand, it is alarming that an increased number of people do nothing to change their way of life after the exposure," Kalda said.

What is encouraging, though, is that people have remained careful to wear masks and keep their distance from others. 77 percent of the respondents said they would be prepared to be vaccinated against coronavirus.

Kalda said considering vaccinations are still in their early stage in Estonia and the spread of the virus is extensive, people should very seriously follow all the precautions that help slow down the virus.

"The significant number of asymptomatic infections currently shows that it is very important to avoid immediate contacts and follow the self-isolation rules even upon the slightest suspicion of contact with the infection. This is the only way we can cut the spread of the virus," Kalda said.

The monitoring study is conducted by 17 researchers from five institutes of the University of Tartu. Synlab and Kantar Emor are involved as partners. More information can be found on the website of the coronavirus prevalence study.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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