Around one adult in every 40 in Estonia, or 2.5 percent (between 26,000 and 27,000 individuals) is coronavirus-infectious, according to a recent University of Tartu study.
The study also found that one in five adults in Estonia has developed COVID-19 antibodies, either through being vaccinated or through having contracted the virus, though the preponderance of asymptomatic virus carriers and potential underestimation of exposure to carriers complicates the picture, the university says.
Professor of Family Medicine at the university, Ruth Kalda, says the most concerning aspect of the extensive viral spread is that nearly half of the infectious PCR-positives are symptomless.
"This means that they are not aware of their infection and therefore do not know that they should isolate themselves," Kalda said.
"Since there are more people infected than ever before, individuals can get exposed to the virus anywhere. The best way to prevent the spread of the virus is to avoid close contacts," she added, according to a ministry press release.
Antibodies – protein used by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign objects such as pathogenic bacteria and viruses – have developed in an estimated 229,000 adults, i.e. 21 percent of the adult population, the university reports.
Half of these subjects had developed antibodies in contracting and recovering from the illness, and half by vaccination. During the past month, the number of people with antibodies has increased the most by those who have received the first vaccine dose, meaning the inoculation process should be continued.
"To achieve longer-lasting virus protection and the security of society as a whole, the widespread vaccination of the population will give the most reliable result. Therefore, the current guidelines also recommend vaccinating those who have suffered from COVID-19 with one dose one week to six months after recovery," Kalda went on.
The study covered 2,386 random-sampled adults March 11-22, with number of coronavirus antibodies analyzed in most of these.
Results showed proved 102 people 4.1 percent were PCR-positive, with 40 percent having recovered and no longer being infectious, but the remaining 60 percent being infectious
Extrapolating from these results, the university says an estimated 26,500 people (2.5 percent) of the adult population may be actually carrying and spreading the virus.
The study confirms the extensive spread of the virus, while also gives credence to the success of stricter movement restrictions, the university claims, as physical meetings and social gatherings, even in small groups, are not taking place, while other social distancing and staying close to one's locale have become standard practice, the university goes on.
At the same time, one in ten adults is believed to have been in close contact with an infected person, while a slight decrease in the number of those who continue their daily activities after close contact has been experienced, but still constitutes around 20 percent of the populace.
In general, taking close contact status seriously enough is still not ingrained, Kalda added.
The research was carried out by a broad-based research group from the University of Tartu in cooperation with private sector firms Synlab Eesti, Medicum and Kantar Emor.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte