Despite high hospitalization, infection rate falls below 0.85

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Intensive care unit at the North Estonia Medical Center (PERH). Source: PERH/ERR

While the number of hospitalized patients is at an all-time high as of Monday, the coronavirus infection rate - known as the R rate - has fallen below 0.85, which could open discussions about reopening schools, scientific council mathematical statistician Krista Fischer said.

"It is somewhere in the 0.82-0.85 range, meaning right about where we hoped it would fall. It could go to 0.8. Still, it is a downward trend," Fischer told ERR.

The R rate, a statistical indicator of how many people an infected person transmits the coronavirus to on average, is an indicator based on which the scientific council and government establish or ease restrictions. A range of 0.8-0.85 has been pointed out as one possible factor that can lead to schools being reopened again.

Fischer said it can be put up for discussion. "First, there will be a school break (April 19-25). But how should it be after the break, should contact learning be restored? It must be discussed with the Ministry of Education - what are the measures so that it would not bring a rise in infections," the professor said.

She noted that she would support allowing grades 1-4 back to school. "But that is my personal opinion, we have not formed a common position in the scientific council based on this recent data yet," Fischer said, adding that state exams could also be conducted in person.

For more data - on the R rate and other indicators - click here (link in Estonian).

Record 727 people hospitalized

As of Monday morning, 727 people are hospitalized with the coronavirus, 71 of them are in intensive care and 52 are under assisted breathing.

There are 232 patients hospitalized in the southern region and 495 in the northern region. "As we predicted, the holidays brought more people for treatment than patients written out and that is how it went. We all sincerely hope that the need for hospital treatment goes down this week and a decrease will hopefully take place at some point," said Health Board emergency medicine chief Urmas Sule.

Sule said the need for hospital treatment could come from a decrease in infections but with a delay. "The logic speaks for it. Over the last 24 hours, there were 68 new hospitalized patients. It is not a small number, but compared to high times, when the number has been over 100 a day, it is a falling trend," the Health Board official said.

While there was a period when younger people were infected more, the coronavirus has again began spreading among the elderly. "The average age has grown again and it is around 68 years old for hospitalized patients," Sule noted.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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