University of Tartu’s wastewater study gives hope that virus spread is slowing down

This week’s results of the wastewater monitoring survey led by the University of Tartu show that the spread of the coronavirus has slowed to some extent. The situation continues to be serious in the counties of northern Estonia and in Tartu. In wastewater samples from central and southern Estonia, the virus concentration has decreased.

According to the lead researcher, Professor of Technology of Antimicrobial Compounds of the University of Tartu Tanel Tenson, these results may reflect the impact of the extensive restrictions imposed a few weeks ago. “Whether it is the beginning of a steady decline or just a temporary fluctuation – we will see in the next weeks. Hopefully, our joint efforts are bearing fruit and the spread of the virus is beginning to gradually slow down,” Tenson said.

Last week, the samples collected from the wastewater treatment plants of nearly all larger towns and cities of Estonia showed high concentration of the coronavirus.  This week, the concentration has dropped to an average level in nearly half of the sampling sites.

Wastewater samples are collected at the beginning of every week in all Estonian county centres and cities with more than 10,000 inhabitants. The study is a tool supporting the Health Board by providing early information to assess the spread of the virus before clinical cases are detected. The monitoring helps to find hidden outbreaks and observe changes in the dynamics of outbreaks. The Health Board is regularly informed of the results.

In collecting the samples, the University of Tartu cooperates with the Estonian Environmental Research Centre and water companies operating the waste water treatment plants of Estonian cities. The samples are analysed at the laboratories of the University of Tartu Institute of Technology.

For more information and the interactive map with the previous results of the study, see the home page of the study “Detecting coronavirus in waste water”.

Further information: Tanel Tenson, Professor of Technology of Antimicrobial Compounds, University of Tartu, 5344 5202,