Study shows slight reduction in coronavirus infections in Estonia

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

The number of adults infected with COVID-19 has decreased after the holidays but the overall level of infection remains high, a monitoring study by the University of Tartu shows. Additionally, behavioral patterns of probable close contacts are worrying

During the monitoring phase from January 21 to February 1, a total of 2,468 people were tested, of whom 42 tested positive. Of these, nine had recovered from the disease, but 33 remained infectious. Slightly more than half of those infected had no signs of illness.

Researchers estimate that 1.7 percent of the adult population, or about 17,700 people, are infectious. Thus, on average, one in 59 adult residents is infected with the coronavirus. During the study phase in early January, an estimated 2.3 percent of the adult population, or one in 43 adults, was infectious.

Head of the study, University of Tartu professor of family medicine Ruth Kalda said it is clear that the record numbers of infections identified in the previous phase of the study were mainly due to holiday parties, visits and accompanying close contacts.

"This time, the results show that both gatherings in smaller groups and domestic travel have decreased. This can also explain the decline in infection rates," Kalda said.

Dr. Ruth Kalda on "Uudis+" Source: ERR/ Lauri Varik

She said in order to lower the infection rates, it is important to avoid close contacts. In the recently ended study phase, 52 percent of those who tested positive were asymptomatic. Altogether 70 percent of those who tested positive and had signs of the disease also considered themselves healthy.

"These indicators confirm that a very large number of people, who transmit the virus without knowing it, move among us every day," Kalda said.

Compared to the previous phase of the study, the number of people exposed to possible infections has decreased. Thus, one in 17 people has likely been in close contact with an infected person. In mid-January, one in 12 people was expected to have been in close contact. One-third of them did nothing to prevent infection and still do not do so, continuing their daily rhythm of life uninterrupted. This is a very serious risk to society as a whole, which could create favorable conditions for the spread of the infection.

The monitoring study is conducted by 17 researchers from five institutes of the University of Tartu.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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