Estonia's coronavirus infection rate falls to 1.1

Coronavirus testing station.
Coronavirus testing station. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Estonia's coronavirus infection rate - R - has fallen to 1.1 from 1.6 several weeks ago, the Health Board said on Wednesday. However, it is likely the infection rate will rise again.

Speaking on Vikerraadio's program "Uudis +", Hanna Sepp, head of the Infectious Diseases Department of the Health Board, confirmed the fall in the infection rate but said it will slowly rise in the coming weeks.

A forecast from the Health Board shows the number of infections is likely to increase by a fifth next week to approximately 300-400 new cases a day. There could be as many as 500 new cases each day at the end of September.

Sepp said the previous forecast of 2,500 new cases per day has been abandoned by the Health Board because it was based on the previous infection rate of 1.6.

The agency does not make longer-term forecasts. "Long-term forecasts are not accurate, it is better to look at shorter-term forecasts," Sepp said.

It is not known how high the infection rate will be by the start of the school year. "R has now fallen compared to previous periods, but what it could be at the beginning of the school year is hard to say," Sepp said.

The Health Board is currently recommending that children do not wear masks at school and believes schools can decide the rules for themselves.

As covid-19 is currently spreading among young and middle-aged people, more younger patients are being hospitalized. The share of hospitalized persons over 70 has decreased and the highest is among the 30-59 age group.

Currently, 81 people are being treated in hospital and a health care emergency has been declared. Estonia has fewer than 1,000 hospital beds which can be used for covid-19 patients.

What is the R rate?

The reproduction number (R) is the average number of secondary infections produced by a single infected person.

An R value of 1 means that on average every person who is infected will infect 1 other person, meaning the total number of infections is stable.

If R is 2, on average, each infected person infects 2 more people. If R is 0.5 then on average for each 2 infected people, there will be only 1 new infection.

If R is greater than 1 the epidemic is growing, if R is less than 1 the epidemic is shrinking. The higher R is above 1, the more people 1 infected person infects and so the faster the epidemic grows.

R can change over time. For example, it falls when there is a reduction in the number of contacts between people, which reduces transmission. R increases when the numbers of contacts between people rise, leading to a rise in viral transmission.

Source: UK government website


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Editor: Helen Wright

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