Plans to end extensive PCR coronavirus testing and move to antigen tests are being mulled by the government, Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a press conference, Kiik said the rules will change at the start of next year.
"We are increasingly focusing on the use of antigen tests and other similar faster methods to gradually reduce the time and labor costs of testing, but also the financial cost to society," he said.
The minister said it will be up to the experts to decide whether a positive antigen test result will be confirmed by a PCR test.
Since the coronavirus crisis started in Estonia in February 2020, more than 1.8 million PCR tests have been performed which has cost the state more than €100 million. Some costs have been borne by the European Union.
"Our goal is definitely to make this amount significantly smaller," said Kiik.
Earlier this week, Finland said it would change its coronavirus testing policy as mass testing is too heavy a burden for the health care system and reduces access to care.
Speaking at the same press conference as Kiik on Wednesday, Deputy Director General of the Health Board Mari-Anne Härm said she is interested to see the Finnish approach.
"In the long run, it will be cheaper for the state and less burdensome for the health care system if we move from such extensive PCR testing to, for example, more rapid antigen testing," she said.
Härma said there are very sensitive rapid antigen tests being used by GPs and hospitals.
Estonia's current policy is to test symptomatic people and close contacts with PCR nasopharyngeal swabs to confirm a case of coronavirus.
Coronavirus cases in schools tripled last week
Last week, the number of coronavirus cases in schools tripled, Härma said, adding this will increase as all children are tested in schools when there is a confirmed case.
Extensive testing will continue until at least the end of September. The first data show will be published this week and the future of large-scale school testing will be decided at the end of the month.
Editor: Helen Wright