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The government supported the proposal of the researchers of the University of Tartu to initiate a targeted monitoring study in Ida-Viru County

27. August 2020 - 0:00

Stenbock House, 27 August 2020 – The cabinet supported the proposal of the monitoring study team of the University of Tartu to initiate a large-scale field study tomorrow in Ida-Viru County to more accurately determine the extent of the prevalence of the coronavirus.

In the course of the study, approximately 1,500 residents of the county will be interviewed and tested. Kantar Emor will start conducting the study tomorrow.

“Estonia’s coronavirus infection rate per 100,000 inhabitants is 11, which is among the lowest in Europe, but the outbreaks of the infection in Ida-Viru County are of concern according to the Health Board and the government’s coronavirus scientific council. In Ida-Viru County, 73 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in two weeks, and the Health Board is currently monitoring more than 400 close contacts. Outbreaks in Ida-Viru County must be under our close attention so that the virus does not spread to other regions,” said Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.

“The government supports the proposal of the monitoring study team of the University of Tartu to begin an additional study and testing in Ida-Viru County tomorrow to determine the exact extent of the spread of the virus in the region. I am grateful to the researchers for their willingness to initiate the study immediately. We have managed to get the local outbreaks in Tartu under control. We will continue to work in other Estonian counties in the same way and the restriction on the sale of alcohol during the night in Ida-Viru County, which was established by the Police and Border Guard Board last Saturday, will continue to apply,” added the prime minister.

In the fifth wave of the results of the monitoring study of the University of Tartu, which was conducted from 6 August to 28 August, and presented to the members of the government, one person infected with the coronavirus was identified. In the course of the study, 3,172 adult Estonian residents were interviewed, 2,334 of whom were tested based on random selection. According to the conclusions of the researchers, there were up to 1,800 adult infected persons in Estonia in August.

The study shows that there is currently no widespread prevalence of the virus in the general population. At the same time, the researchers believe that considering the continued activity of the outbreaks in Ida-Viru County, it cannot be ruled out that the infection has spread to the general population there. A more extensive local study is needed to conclude this more accurately.

Ruth Kalda, professor at the University of Tartu and head of the monitoring study team, explained that based mainly on the results of testing carried out in mid-August, it can be said that the Health Board got local outbreaks well under control, especially in Tartu. “The fact that most of the infected people remained in isolation and helped the Health Board identify the close contacts certainly played a part. The Tartu nightclubs that temporarily closed their doors must also be praised. With such cooperation, we can also prevent the spread of the virus in the case of future outbreaks,” she said.

“As the number of infected people has increased in Ida-Viru County at the end of August, we issued a proposal to the government today to conduct a large-scale monitoring study in this area. With the consent of the members of the government, AS Emor will start calling the residents of Ida-Viru County on a random basis tomorrow. Our goal is to interview and test about 1,500 people or 1% of the county’s population during the week to find out the extent of the spread of the virus outside Ida-Viru County. Based on this, it is also possible to better plan regional measures to prevent the spread of the virus,” commented Kalda.

Kalda emphasised that participation in the study is voluntary, but reminded all residents of Ida-Viru County that by answering the study questions and testing, everyone can contribute to determining the actual prevalence of the virus. “It is still important for all residents to remember that even with mild symptoms, they have to stay at home and turn to a family physician or call the family physicians’ advisory line during the weekend to get a referral letter for testing,” she added.

Since the spring, a total of 16,557 adults have been interviewed in the course of the five waves of the study, and 12,848 of them have been tested based on random selection. A total of 15 positive coronavirus samples have been identified during testing.

The next study wave is planned to take place from 21 September after the start of the school year. “Nationwide, it would be reasonable to monitor the prevalence of the virus again in the second half of September to see how the opening of schools has affected the rate of infection,” Kalda explained.

The study involves 17 researchers from the University of Tartu and its main partners are AS Kantar-Emor, OÜ Medicum Eriarstiabi, and SYNLAB Eesti OÜ.

More detailed information about the study on the prevalence of the coronavirus in Estonia can be found on the website of the University of Tartu: https://www.ut.ee/en/research/study-prevalence-coronavirus-estonia

Additional information:
Ruth Kalda, Head of the Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health of the University of Tartu, Professor of Family Medicine, 58383863, ruth.kalda[at]ut[dot]ee