Number of infections remains high, with some signs of stabilisation
The results of the coronavirus prevalence study conducted by the University of Tartu show that the virus is widespread and the number of infected people is high, while the number of virus carriers remains largely the same as a few weeks ago. According to researchers, this refers to the efficiency of restrictions imposed at the end of November.
From 11 to 21 December, 2,500 people were tested, and 30 infected persons all over Estonia were detected. Two thirds of them had symptoms of the disease, yet most of them did not suspect they had been infected with coronavirus. The study data show that the percentage of contagious infected persons in the adult population is 1.1% or about 12,000 people. This means that one adult person in 90 is carrying the virus in Estonia.
According to the head of the monitoring survey Ruth Kalda, Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Tartu, the virus is still very widespread and as many as one person in 20 is infected in Ida-Viru County in North-East Estonia, but there are signs of stabilisation in both Tallinn and Ida-Viru County. However, precautionary measures must be taken seriously everywhere, because virus prevalence has increased in several regions of South Estonia. “We can say that the general obligation to wear masks, introduced by the government on 24 November, has started to yield results. This gives us courage that we can stop the disease when we observe the rules,” said Kalda.
However, researchers are worried that more than half of the infected persons with mild symptoms do not suspect that they have been infected with the coronavirus and do not therefore comply with the respective restrictions. “Considering the wide spread of the virus in Estonia and the overload of hospitals, it is essential that even if people have the slightest symptoms, they must go for a test, stay home, and use the HOIA app that notifies of cases of exposure to the coronavirus,” Kalda said. “The fewer close contacts people have and the earlier they learn of the contact with an infected person, the better we are able to suppress the spread of the virus,” she said.
Avoiding close contacts is the most effective method to slow down the virus
The study revealed that nearly 95% of the respondents comply with the mask-wearing obligation. Also compliance with distancing requirements has increased. Younger adults, however, continue to meet in smaller groups. Nearly half of the respondents avoid physical gatherings these days. Three thirds of the respondents did it during the emergency situation in spring. “This is a very important choice in our everyday behaviour, as it helps to avoid an increase in infection rates without applying additional official measures,” Kalda explained.
“I ask everyone to be considerate of themselves and to others during the upcoming holidays. If we limit our contacts, stay home with symptoms and wear masks in public places, there is hope that after the holidays, children can return to school, the hospitals will cope and there will be no need to introduce more stringent restrictions,” said Kalda. She said the effect of the additional restrictions imposed in mid-December can be estimated in a few weeks when the next stage of the monitoring study starts.
The monitoring study of the coronavirus prevalence is conducted by a research team including members from five institutes of the University of Tartu in cooperation with Synlab and Kantar Emor.
Read more about the monitoring study on the University of Tartu website.
Further information: Ruth Kalda, Professor of Family Medicine, University of Tartu, +372 5698 5599, ruth.kalda [ät] ut.ee