Data showing fall in Covid rates may be result of reduced testing

Intensive care ward at a hospital in Estonia.
Intensive care ward at a hospital in Estonia. Source: Jürgen Randma/government office

While figures last week suggested a fall in Covid rates in Estonia, the real picture may be obscured by a scaling down in PCR testing, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported on Monday. The peak of the current wave may therefore still lie in the future.

Peep Talving, chief physician at the North Estonian Regional Hospital (PERH) told AK that: "We are conducting fewer PCR tests, while not all antigen tests from among children go to [Health Board information center] TEHIK, so we can see one part of the iceberg, but we don't see the rest of the iceberg, being antigen tests which are being carried out everywhere," Talving said.

"Personally, I think we only see part of the data, and in fact the need for hospital care always comes with a small shift. This shift is starting to happen now, and we're going to see a bigger need for hospital care," Talving added.

Statistician Krista Fischer stated that the "R" rate of infection fell below 1.0 by the start of the weekend, which would mean a trend for a fall in infections, but Talving disagrees, telling AK he thought the rate was still slightly more than 1.0.

He said: "Especially when the infection is so widespread. Everywhere - in homes, schools, workplaces, families."

"So there's no point in securing them with PCR. But at the same time, it creates a situation where we don't know exactly where we're going and when. R is starting to fall, we can see that R is actually less than 1.0, according to Krista Fischer's data, but I believe that we are actually at 1.1-1.2," Talving went on.

Fischer said last week that infection rates had fallen on the previous week in all age-groups save the over-80s, with under-19s seeing the steepest fall.

Arkadi Popov, head of the West Tallinn Central Hospital (LTKH) and a prominent figure earlier on in the pandemic – he also ran in the local elections last October for the Center Party – agrees with Talving and said the current data may be misleading given the scrapping of the use of PCR tests as a requirement.

Hospitalization rates would give a clearer picture, he said. This figure is growing, with 525 in hospital due to Covid as of Monday (up from just over 400 a week ago), of whom 313 have serious symptoms. 25 of this latter group are in intensive care.

Popov noted that the number of people on ventilators – 14 as of Monday morning – had also been rising.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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