Wastewater survey: Coronavirus levels steadily declining

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Wastewater treatment plant in Tallinn. Source: Tallinna Vesi

The latest results of a weekly wastewater survey conducted by the University of Tartu has found a stable but slow decline in coronavirus trace levels.

While fewer samples return very high coronavirus levels, the virus has not completely disappeared from any region in Estonia, the regular survey conducted by the University of Tartu finds, while eastern and southern Estonia is seeing the slowest rate of decline in coronavirus traces.

University of Tartu Professor of Technology of Antimicrobial Compounds Tanel Tenson said via a university press release that: "While the curve of the graph describing the change in the situation has turned downward everywhere, this decline is the slowest in Ida-Viru County and southern Estonia," explained.

The index describing the average situation in Estonia is still comparable to that of early February, the study finds, while Harju County, the most populous region of Estonia, also has above-average traces of COVID-19 in wastewater.

The study is a tool which the Health Board (Terviseamet) uses to monitor changes in the outbreak dynamics and also to uncover previously hidden outbreaks.

It gives early information for estimating the spread of the virus before clinical cases are detected, and the board is regularly informed of the results.

Results of the survey May 17-21. Source: University of Tartu

The study involves collecting wastewater samples at the beginning of each week in population centers of 10,000 inhabitants or more (of which there are about 15), and in smaller settlements where necessary, the university says.

In the case of the larger cities, the data reflects wastewater passing through a treatment plant over a 24-hour period, which it says provides an accurate overview, whereas in smaller population centers, spot checks are conducted, which need to be used over several weeks to get a clear picture of trends, due to their greater susceptibility to various factors.

The survey is conducted in conjunction with the relevant water service providers and the Estonian Environmental Research Center, while samples are analyzed at the University of Tartu Institute of Technology.

More information and an interactive map is here

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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