Coronavirus prevalence study starts again

On 5 August, at the request of the Government of the Republic, researchers of the University of Tartu restart the study on the prevalence of coronavirus in Estonia. The study wave lasting until 16 August helps to get an overview of both the spread of the virus among the adult population as well as the development of antiviral immunity in society.

The rapid rise in infection rates over the past month calls for returning to the regular monitoring of prevalence to better assess the risks associated with the spread of the coronavirus. According to Ruth Kalda, the head of the prevalence study and Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Tartu, statistics on new infections only is not enough to assess the risk level of the current viral situation, as a large number of people have developed antibodies against the virus either by recovering from the disease or by vaccination. According to Kalda, experience has shown that if people with antibodies happen to become infected again, they suffer from milder cases of coronavirus, so the need for hospitalisation increases more slowly than back when antiviral immunity was lower in society.

“Therefore, we need to have an overview of the presence of antibodies and of the number of symptomatic and asymptomatic infections in the adult population to assess the risk level of the viral situation and to decide on possible restrictions. Moreover, the survey included in our study also allows us to assess how many adults suffer from coronavirus repeatedly," Kalda explained.

The behavioural study conducted as a part of the prevalence study allows understanding people’s attitudes towards restrictions and vaccination. The latter is particularly important regarding those who, for some reason, have not yet been vaccinated. “Considering the end of summer holidays and the approaching new school year, the study results will give valuable information for making decisions about the future organisation of social life,” Kalda said.

Participation in the study

The prevalence study is organised in the same way as in spring. Random-sampled adult residents from across Estonia are invited to the study. People included in the sample will receive an invitation from the research company Kantar Emor and be asked to fill in an online questionnaire. The participants will then receive a web link to register for testing or get a call from the Medicum and SYNLAB testing call centre to agree on a testing time at a suitable testing point. For the test, a nasopharyngeal sample is taken. Anti-coronavirus antibody levels are determined from a venous blood sample. The procedure takes approximately 10 minutes in total. Disabled and elderly people, as well as persons with reduced mobility, can request to be visited by a testing team at home.

The participant will be informed of the test results within three days. The results will be entered in the patient portal. Persons who receive a positive test result will be contacted by the study team during two to four weeks to monitor the progress of the disease.

The study is carried out by a broad-based research group of the University of Tartu in cooperation with Synlab Eesti, Medicum and Kantar Emor.

For more information about the detection of Covid-19 antibodies, see the home page of coronavirus testing. For more information about the coronavirus prevalence study, see the University of Tartu web page.

Further information: Ruth Kalda, Head of the University of Tartu Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health, Professor of Family Medicine, 5698 5599,