Researcher: Coronavirus testing in Estonia is not excessive

Krista Fischer
Krista Fischer Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Member of the government's scientific advisory board Krista Fischer disagreed on Monday that Estonia is carrying out too many coronavirus tests.

Professor Fischer commented adviser to the chancellor of justice Martin Kadai's view that too many coronavirus tests are being performed in Estonia and that testing should be primarily available to people with symptoms.

"While, when it comes to many measures, there are arguments for and against all over the world, there is one on which virtually all scientists and government science advisers agree: the 'test-trace-isolate' strategy is crucial to pandemic control," Fischer told newspaper Postimees. 

It is the timely identification and isolation of those infected that helps prevent the need for stricter restrictions, she said.

Instead of isolating all people, it is much more sensible to isolate only the infectious ones, she said, adding that no negative test can be considered a waste.

"We can say that instead of testing, sick people should stay at home. Unfortunately, we know that the coronavirus is very contagious even before the onset of symptoms and also in case of very mild symptoms, nor do family members of a person with a simple cold have to sit at home with them," Fischer added. 

Fischer noted the current very high percentage of positive tests suggests that a very large number of infected people in Estonia remain undetected.

"It is quite clear that we are under-testing and this namely is one of the reasons why we are in the situation we are in," the member of the scientific board advising the government on COVID-19 said. 

She described reducing testing as a short-sighted move.

"It will immediately lead to an even more uncontrolled spread of the infection and the indefinite stalling of planned treatment. In addition, the whole world would be laughing at us if we were to abandon this single measure that is universally recognized as the most important," Fischer said.

The general conclusion is always that the more testing there is, the more effectively the spread of the infection can be controlled, and the less socially burdensome measures are needed. Frequent testing could also help shorten the periods of isolation that perhaps are unnecessarily long sometimes, she added. 

On October 26, the proportion of positive coronavirus tests in Estonia was at 21.5 percent.

Mari-Anne Härma, acting director-general of the Health Board, told Postimees: "One in five coronavirus tests is positive. This shows that the coronavirus is spreading very extensively. If the percentage of positive tests is less than five, then we can say that the spread of the virus is under control."

On Monday (November 8), the 14-day share of positive tests detected was 19.9 percent.

Kadai, adviser on matters of health to the chancellor of justice, said testing people with no symptoms on a large scale is a highly questionable activity, even if the need to detect the hidden spread of the virus is cited as justification.

He said it is not possible to be serious about the possibility to search for, eradicate and control all of the virus.

"No matter how much you test. Success will still come from vaccinating -- and above all vaccinating the at-risk group," Kadai added. 


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Editor: Helen Wright

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