Wastewater study: COVID-19 levels still falling, Ida-Viru rates higher

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

Wastewater in Estonia is showing continuing fall in the incidence of traces of coronavirus, a recent survey shows.

The study, based on data collected on a weekly basis, is conducted by the University of Tartu. Its head, Tanel Tenson, said the incidence of locations with low virus concentration in waste water has significantly increased.

"The percentage of places with low concentration of the virus is currently comparable to the level in the autumn," Tenson said via university press release, with the exception being Ida-Viru County, whose results differ considerably from the general picture and show virus levels five times higher than the average in Estonia.

The Health Board (Terviseamet) uses the study and keeps up-to-date on its results, the university says, to monitor changes in the outbreak dynamics and discover hidden outbreaks and to provide early information for estimating the spread of the virus before clinical cases are detected.

Data collection points returning the lowest levels of coronavirus traces in wastewater are displayed in green in the map below.

Coronavirus wastewater sample rates, where green is the lowest and red the highest. 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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