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Coronavirus infections down by more than a third

The results of the January wave of the University of Tartu-led coronavirus prevalence study show a significant decrease in infections and an increase in antibody prevalence. It was the last time the University of Tartu carried out the study. In the future, the Health Board will monitor the virus situation.

In the study wave from 18 to 30 January, 2,179 people were tested for coronavirus. 3.6% of them tested positive, and 1.8% were infectious. In other words, one in every 28 adults is infected at the end of January, and one in 42 is still infectious. Almost half of the infected have no apparent symptoms.



The figure shows the comparative overview of the results of 33 study waves. Source: University of Tartu 


According to the head of the prevalence study, the University of Tartu Professor of Family Medicine Ruth Kalda, the virus situation has calmed down. This is confirmed by the decline in the number of cases needing hospitalisation.

While the number of infected has dropped, the percentage of adults with antibodies against the coronavirus has increased. As many as 93% of adults have developed antibodies, which is 3% more than last month and the highest percentage in the history of the prevalence study. According to Kalda, the figures suggest that the growth in the percentage of people with antibodies mainly results from them having had Covid-19.

People’s interest in getting a booster vaccine dose has slightly waned compared to last month. At the end of 2022, more than a third of the elderly were ready to have a booster; currently, less than a third of them plan to do so. Only a tenth of young adults (aged 18–39) are interested in a booster. Kalda said that in the future, primarily the representatives of at-risk groups should get booster jabs to strengthen the body’s defences.

More than 100,000 participants in almost three years

The University of Tartu has led the coronavirus prevalence study since April 2020, when the university suggested it to the government to gather evidence-based information required to manage the health crises. During this period, in the course of 33 study waves, more than 100,000 adults responded to the survey, and more than 80,300 were tested for the coronavirus.

During this period, in the course of 33 study waves, more than 100,000 adults responded to the survey, and more than 80,300 were tested for the coronavirus.

The leaders of the study, Ruth Kalda and the University of Tartu Associate Professor of Public Health Mikk Jürisson, thank everyone who has contributed to getting an evidence-based overview of the coronavirus pandemic by participating in the study over the almost three years.

“No studies of such scope and representativeness, and covering the entire adult population had been carried out in Estonia before. It was made possible by the Estonian people, many of whom were included in the random sample more than once. With our partners from Synlab, Kantar Emor and Medicum, we set up a logistics network to involve people in the survey and collect samples across the country. The study was also a new collaborative experience for researchers. It brought together experts from different disciplines at the university to create a methodology for solving the complex problem and analyse the collected data,” Kalda said.

Health Board will monitor the coronavirus situation

From now on, the Health Board will monitor the prevalence of coronavirus in the same way they monitor influenza and RS-viruses and other viruses of the upper respiratory tract. Samples will be collected in collaboration with family medicine centres and hospitals, primarily to get an overview of the prevalence of the viruses and monitor the emergence of new strains. “To assess the epidemiological situation and forecast hospitalisation rates, we will use targeted sentinel surveillance, wastewater monitoring and sequencing, which give a good picture of the viruses in circulation, their strains and distribution,” said Kärt Sõber, Head of the Department of the Epidemiology of Communicable Diseases of the Health Board.

The study was commissioned by the Government of the Republic and funded by the European Regional Development Fund from the EU measure to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

More information about the study is available on the University of Tartu website.

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