Increasingly more people do not change their behaviour following contact with coronavirus carrier

The University of Tartu’s study on the prevalence of coronavirus reveals that the number of the infected has doubled in Estonia over the recent month. The virus is spreading in all counties. Compared to the survey stage that was conducted in December, people have started to travel much more extensively in Estonia. Also, there has been an increase in the number of people who do not change anything in their behaviour after possible contact with an infected person.

In the course of the coronavirus prevalence study from 7 to 18 January, 2,362 people were tested. Fifty-five people tested positive; 9 of them had had the disease, 46 were still contagious. It should be pointed out that nearly half (45%) of the infected had no symptoms of the disease. The results show that 2.3% of the adult population in Estonia is currently contagious. This is about 24,400 people, or one in 43 adults. In comparison, according to the study stage conducted before Christmas, the proportion of contagious adults in the population was 1.2%.

The head of the monitoring survey, University of Tartu Professor of Family Medicine Ruth Kalda said that in the light of these results, the relaxation of restrictions is not possible in the near future. “To avoid the risk of hospitals being overwhelmed in a few weeks, it is vital that all people follow the safety precautions in place,” Kalda explained.

Small-group gatherings and domestic travel have increased

According to Kalda, the results of the survey show that the growth in infection rate probably results from visits and smaller social gatherings held during the holidays.

Compared to the previous study stage, participation in larger events and visiting late-night entertainment venues has dropped to almost non-existent. However, attending events in groups of up to 20 people has become more frequent, mostly among young adults. While before the holidays, 30% of the respondents did it, now it was nearly half of the representatives of the younger age group. Also movement between counties has increased among young adults.

The study reveals that the number of people who have possibly been in contact with an infected person, as well as the number of those who did not change anything in the behaviour after such contact, has risen. Whereas in the previous stage of the study, a third of those who had had possible contact with an infected person said they did not change their behaviour afterwards, now 40% of the respondents said so.

“Considering the wide spread of the virus, the number of those exposed to infected persons is expected to have grown. On the other hand, it is alarming that an increased number of people do nothing to change their way of life after the exposure,” Kalda said.

What is encouraging, though, is that people have remained careful to wear masks and keep distance from others. 77% of the respondents said they would be prepared to be vaccinated against coronavirus.

According to Kalda, considering that vaccination is still in its early stage in Estonia and the spread of the virus is extensive, people should very seriously follow all the precautions that help slow down the virus. “The significant number of asymptomatic infections currently shows that it is very important to avoid immediate contacts and follow the self-isolation rules even upon the slightest suspicion of contact with infection. This is the only way we can cut the spread of the virus,” Kalda said.

The monitoring study is conducted by 17 researchers from five institutes of the University of Tartu. Synlab and Kantar Emor are involved as partners.

Website of the coronavirus prevalence study

Further information: Ruth Kalda, Head of Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health, Professor of Family Medicine, University of Tartu, +372 5698 5599,