Latest Tartu university wastewater study confirms continued COVID-19 spread

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Wastewater treatment facility. (photo is illustrative) Source: ERR

The latest regular weekly wastewater study conducting by the University of Tartu confirms the continued spread of COVID-19, with southern and western Estonia in particular, so far areas which mostly had not been as hard hit as northern Estonia, expected to see rising figures in the next few weeks. The readings are the highest so far since the regular study began.

Head of the wastewater research team, Professor Tanel Tenson, says the results show an evenly high spread of the virus across Estonia.

He said: "While in the previous weeks, the number of the infected was large primarily in North Estonia, the results of this week indicate that the virus has spread southward, so these regions need to be prepared for a deteriorating situation."

Tenson is Professor  of Technology of Antimicrobial Compounds.

Results of the University of Tartu wastewater survey on March 15-19 Source: University of Tartu

Some caution needs to be exercised with this week's results in that samples from the central Estonian town of Paide and from Valga (in South Estonia) could not be used and are therefore not reflected on the latest map (see above).

"However, when we look at the samples taken from the nearby areas, the situation is serious everywhere. Never before has the average reading for Estonia been so high," Professor Tenson said.

Wastewater samples are collected every week in all Estonian county centers (i.e. county towns – ed.) and cities with over 10,000 inhabitants (of which there are 14 – ed.). The study supports the work of the Health Board (Terviseamet) by providing early information to assess the spread of the virus before clinical cases are detected.

This monitoring helps to find hidden outbreaks and monitor changes in the dynamics of outbreaks, the university says, and the board is regularly informed of the results.

Sample collection is carried out in conjunction with the Estonian Environmental Research Center (EKUK) and local water authorities operating the water treatment plants of Estonian cities.

The samples are analyzed at the laboratories of the University of Tartu Institute of Technology.

The previous study report is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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