Lutsar: Mass PCR testing no longer justified

Coronavirus testing at Tallinn Airport.
Coronavirus testing at Tallinn Airport. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

University of Tartu virology professor and former head of the government's scientific council Irja Lutsar told ERR that massive PCR testing is no longer justified due to the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Lutsar considers mass PCR testing too expensive and unjustified medically. She noted that home rapid testing should be enough. "We must begin thinking about the fact that we do not have endless money. Home rapid tests, meaning antigen rapid tests, have gotten rather good," the virologist said.

She noted that in the current epidemiological situation, PCR testing to confirm rapid tests is not completely necessary. "Antigen tests are cheaper, they can be done at home so if the result is positive, the person does not have to leave home for a PCR test, they stay home for the necessary recovery period despite them having symptoms or not," Lutsar said.

She pointed to Great Britain, which has dropped mass PCR testing, yet has been able to manage without any major restrictions in the current Omicron wave. The country also does not implement coronavirus certificates. Finland is also dropping PCR testing.

Lutsar noted that the EU coronavirus certificates become a bottleneck in dropping PCR tests. "PCR tests are currently conducted so the results would be officially registered. This seems very incorrect medically - let's only test for some document. You should test to deal with infections optimally, whether to isolate or treat the person," she said. "The international coronavirus certificate is the issue. But it could be done domestically."

Rapid test results being enough for official certification or antigen tests replacing PCR tests could help solve the situation. "Latest science articles show that neutralizing antibodies correlate well with binding antibodies, meaning those we can determine in labs. From a certain level, antibodies provide good protection against infection. The cellular immunity from vaccinations needs to be studied further," Lutsar said.

Over the last days, Estonia's average daily tests have been around 9,000. The price of one test is €45 and while testing is free for Estonian citizens, mass testing costs the state some €2-3 million weekly.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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