UT studies on COVID-19

The impact of coronavirus is not limited to potential loss of health but reaches all spheres of life from public health to consequences to the economy and the environment. Research aims to find solutions to lessen the impact of the pandemic on society.

This page gives an overview of how the UT researchers help to solve the global coronavirus pandemic. Here, you will find references to evidence-based information on COVID-19 and studies on coronavirus and the impact of the emergency situation carried out by UT researchers.


Studies conducted at the University of Tartu

Faculty of Arts and Humanities

The personal research funding team grant of Professor of English Raili Marling entitled "Imagining crisis ordinariness: discourse, literature and image" also extends to COVID-19. In such an all-encompassing yet largely invisible crisis it is important to understand the affects it causes (uncertainty, depression, anxiety, etc.). Thus it is important to study how crises are depicted. An analysis of discourses in three different cultures (Estonia, USA, France) helps us understand how affects are used and created by the media and the public discourse and how they can influence the largely emotional reaction of the public to the crisis (behaviour in the emergency situation and isolation, use of personal protective equipment, interpersonal communication, etc.). Read more…


Professor of English Raili Marling is involved in the study by Praxis on the gender impact of the COVID-19 emergency situation.

The research group led by Professor of Literary Theory Marina Grišakova participates in the research study "Post-corona letters: How people envision what the future should look like after corona" initiated by the narrative researchers, psychologists and philosophers of the University of Twente. Researchers from the Netherlands, Finland, the United Kingdom, Germany, Greece and other countries are involved in the study.  The materials will be consolidated in an international database to be created at the University of Twente. Read more…

Senior Research Fellow in Estonian Language Tiit Hennoste received the UT Feasibility fund grant for his project "Test version of the interactive learning programme for the Alarm Centre"


Researchers of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities are also related to the call by the Estonian Literary Museum to write down one's thoughts and doings in the emergency situation.


Faculty of Social Sciences

Lead researcher: Professor in Media Studies Andra Siibak

An international comparative study in cooperation with researchers from Israel, France and the USA. The study aims to understand the experiences of teaching staff members upon transfer to web-based study: whether they acknowledged the potential problems related to the blurring of the boundaries between private and work life and how they coped with these problems. The method is semi-structured individual interviews. Based on the 31 interviews conducted in Estonia, master’s student in journalism and communication Merle Rüütel will defend her master’s thesis in spring 2021. 

The study is organised by Professor in Media Studies Andra Siibak and doctoral student Kristjan Kikerpill.

It aims to explore what types of cybercrime were most common in the COVID-19 pandemic, which communicative strategies were used by cybercriminals, whose names were used to initiate phishing, who were the main victims and which topics were used to get the victims “take the hook”.

The results will be published in Kikerpill, K. & Siibak, A. (forthcoming 2021). Abusing the COVID-19 Pan(dem)ic: A Perfect Storm for Online Scams. In J.C. Pollock & D. Kovach (Eds.), COVID-19 in International Communication: Responses to the Pandemic in Global Perspective. New York: Routledge.


Lead researcher: Senior Research Fellow of Sociology of Sustainability Kati Orru

This Horizon 2020 project studies emergency situations in general, but in relation to the COVID-19 crisis, several work packages have turned their focus on the situation caused by COVID-19. The project studies the most vulnerable groups and communities in order to increase general resilience in society. The BuilDERS project aims to find out what affects the ability of the most vulnerable members of society to cope with both human-caused and natural threats. For that, BuilDERS uses methods of public participation and co-creation, surveys and international comparison and develops practical tools for increasing resilience. Read more on buildersproject.eu

Topics of the work packages of the Institute of Social Sciences:

  • The resilience of social welfare institutions during the pandemic. Which techniques of institutional innovation were used by shelters, soup kitchens, etc. to continue providing support to the most vulnerable groups in society.
  • Analysis of the factors that have helped the homeless and other users of social welfare services to cope during the pandemic. Which have been their experiences? Which have been the impacts? Which factors of individual resilience and social support have helped them to adapt? Kati Orru has been leading the development of the analytical framework and methods of the survey in the BuildERS consortium. The survey was conducted in 15 European countries from September to December 2020.
  • The spread of harmful information related to the pandemic. Each piece of misinformation might not have significant adverse effects on society. Based on nearly one hundred information cases from different European countries, the research group led by Sten Hansson and Sten Torpan have developed a typology of harmful information, damage mechanisms and the opportunities to prevent it. The study will be published in the International Journal of Risk Research.
  • Crisis communication and vulnerability – which communication-related factors increase vulnerability in emergencies such as pandemics. Sten Hansson and Kati Orru led the study published in the article about communication-related vulnerability to disasters in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.
  • Pandemics and other emergencies and using datasets for identifying vulnerable people. The role of the field of social protection in solving crises has not been clearly defined in Estonia. Nevertheless, experts in the social sector, including social workers, have the key knowledge for preventing and reducing the social effects of emergencies. The study aims to find out how to put the different databases of the social sector as well as other datasets (such as mobile positioning data) into better use for targeting rescue and social services.


Lead researcher: Associate Professor in Social Policy Dagmar Kutsar

The study aims to analyse the crisis situation from the child’s perspective. In the middle of April, during the emergency situation, researchers used qualitative semi-structured interviews to gather the views on the crisis situation by children of different age. The study revealed that children understood the need for the emergency situation and missed the habitual direct communication with their friends but also with their relatives and teachers the most. It also showed that the emergency situation put the children’s agency to the test. The study allows comparing the experience of Estonian children to that of their peers from Switzerland and Canada. Also, a joint article is underway. Children’s coping in the COVID-19 emergency situation and later was also the topic of a workshop organised by the research group and health promoters at the Lõuna-Eesti Heaolufoorum that took place on 2 November 2020 as an online seminar (in Estonian). The discussions of researchers and practitioners revealed the emergency situation’s long-lasting effects on children and the need to develop new web-based and mobile intervention methods. The implementation and further development of the study are supported by ETAG PRG700. 

Leader: Senior Research Fellow in Sociology and Social Policy Mare Ainsaar

The 2020 round of the European Social Survey gathers data about life and coping during the spread of the coronavirus, including how the infected have coped with the situation. This round includes a COVID-19-module, including questions about openness to conspiracy theories, vaccination behaviour, acceptance of restrictions to freedom. The results can be compared to data from 30 other countries.  In Estonia, data will be gathered from a representative sample of 2,000 people. The results will be known in 2021. 

Lead researcher: Professor of Sociology Veronika Kalmus; Lead researcher of subtopic: Research Fellow in Sociology Mai Beilmann

The Horizon 2020 project ySKILLs is based on the fact that digitalisation changes the world and requires new digital competences many children and adolescents currently do not have. This may harm their educational, informational and social inclusion and well-being. In one of the work packages of the project, researchers studied the opinions of experts in the field of education and labour market on which digital skills children and adolescents need to have to be successful in today’s education and tomorrow’s labour market and how the acquisition of these skills is supported by the school, home and other factors. As the interviews were conducted during the emergency situation in spring 2020, one of the central themes was the impact of the COVID pandemic on the school and work environment. At the initiative of researchers of the University of Tartu, a report is underway based on the collected data about the communication between home and school and on how this has changed due to the pandemic. 

Lead researcher: Lecturer in Information Science Krista Lepik

The study is carried out in cooperation with Ilmar Vaaro as a part of Krista Lepik’s post-doctoral project. The study aims to map how Estonian libraries have adapted to the situation, which new activities have been proposed, how they give information to their visitors (who, in some places, had to stay behind closed doors) and how the situation affects the work pace of Estonian librarians. During the emergency situation, libraries have been given a very important role of an informer-educator-entertainer – especially in the rural areas where the library is the last “institution” to remain.
In addition to libraries and librarians, the study also looks into the work pace of Estonian museum staff. The emergency situation in spring significantly affected Estonian museums (all of which were closed for almost two months) and the work of museums was reorganised in several ways to send a message to their usual audiences: we are there for you also during these turbulent times. What are the work patterns of museum staff after adapting to the situation, which have been the challenges brought by the emergency situation in spring and the second wave in autumn – these are the questions the study addresses.

The study allows comparing the experiences of Estonian librarians and museum staff to these of their colleagues in Sweden. The results of the analysis will be known in 2021. For more information about the project, see the overview of the presentation at the 11th Congress of Baltic Librarians (introduction of the first results). 

PhD student Liis Auväärt, supervisor Ragne Kõuts-Klemm

The study analyses the journalistic coverage of COVID-19 based on information that has reached the public and the journalists’ competence of large-scale data-based coverage. On one hand, the content analysis of texts published in media gives an overview of the use of data, on the other, the interviews supported by stimulus materials helps to identify shortcomings in the journalist’s data literacy. The need for the development of such competences arises from the general datafication of society. 

Head of the research group: Ain Hinsberg

Members of research group:  Tiia Vissak, Ülle Pärl, Kadri Lees, Garri Raagmaa, Anne Roosipõld, Merike Hallik, Kandela Õun, Taavi Tamberg, Tiina Viin, Marit Piirman, Tiit Kask, Sergey Kask.

The research aims to find out the economic impact of COVID-19 on tourism, analyse the possible development scenarios of the tourism sector after the COVID-19 crisis and offer the state the required priority themes and intervention logics necessary for the development of the Estonian tourism sector, outlining their effects of these activities.

The project led by researchers of Vilnius University aims to reach a deeper understanding of how firms adjust to global uncertainty caused by events such as the changing of the political priorities and trade wars by the US, Brexit, an increase in global political and economic power by China as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns.  Topics of the Estonian working group include analysing how firms adjust to foreign trade shocks, incl. changes in the export structure and the impact of trade shocks on the firms’ productivity.

Duration:   01.01.2021-31.12.2023

Consortium: Vilnius University, University of Tartu, Tallinn University of Technology, BI Norwegian Business School, Baltic International Centre for Economic Policy Studies (BICEPS) and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Members of the project team at the University of Tartu: Priit Vahter, Mathias Juust.

For more information about the results of the Lithuanian round of the EEA Baltic Research Programme, see their web page

UT economists are participating in a study coordinated by the Central European Labour Studies Institute (CELSI), aiming to map the policy measures used for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in different countries.

The project is implemented by the Center of IT Impact Studies (CITIS), Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies
Researchers: Mihkel Solvak, Andres Võrk, Taavi Unt and Annegrete Molloka

In the course of the project, CITIS made an open source data analytics tool for the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications to enable the state agencies to analyse the effect of Covid-19 support measures on enterprises. The application has been delivered to the client, currently we are modifying it and teaching future users of the application.

Principal investigator: Lenno Uusküla
Researchers: Raul Eamets, Jaan Masso, Kaidi Nõmmela, Taavi Unt, Andres Võrk

The Covid-19 pandemic, which broke out in Wuhan at the end of 2019, is affecting global economy both directly (impact caused by morbidity) and indirectly (governments’ measures to curb the spread of the virus). Countries have implemented a variety of measures to alleviate the economic effects of Covid-19 restrictions but so far there have been no analyses of which measures have been the most effective or what are the best options for economic recovery and preparing for the new virus wave. The study aims to gain up-to-date, high-quality information on the pandemic crisis and the impact of the short-term and long-term measures, which have been developed to alleviate the crisis and could be used to make policy decisions (continuation of old measures, development of new ones). Besides quality, the critical elements of this study are the speed and the readiness of the research team to advise authorities on an ongoing basis.
Duration: 1 November 2020 – 30 April 2022

Project website: https://sisu.ut.ee/c19majandus/kontakt 

UT Institute of Psychology and the Estonian start-up Triumf Health study the impact of a digital health game intended for children. In the study, a mobile game is used to map the state of mental health of 7-14-year-olds and give them individual support to prevent the development of psychological issues. The game developed by Triumf Health includes a path about coronavirus, aiming to help children cope better in the current situation caused by the virus.

Research group: Kirsti Akkermann, Kairi Kreegipuu, Hedvig Sultson, Martin Kimmel, Katrin Kukk
UT Institute of Psychology

The survey provides an overview of people’s immediate assessment of coping with stress in the Covid-19 emergency situation, what helped them cope, and what are the possible effects on mental health. The survey serves as an input to the to the national mental health survey, the results of which are used to compile a set of indicators to monitor mental health. 


Head of research group: Kirsti Akkermann and Kenn Konstabel

The study, conducted for the first time in Estonia, aims to identify the mental health and general well-being of the Estonian people in order to help the government to better plan the need for support services and prevention measures. The results of the study will help in developing a more comprehensive mental health monitoring system, which could be used in the future to ensure the best and timely help for those in need. Read more… 


The worldwide spread of the coronavirus pandemic at the beginning of 2020 made governments around the world to impose exceptional measures to combat it. Although initially having broad public support, European citizens have adopted more critical stances over time towards measures limiting democracy and human rights. Exceptional measures can erode public support to democratic governance and institutions, which may in turn lead to public health measures not being followed and democratic stability to be threatened. Thus, research into the modalities and extent of exceptional measures is necessary. The EXCEPTIUS project is researching exceptional measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic in 32 European countries. The aim of the project is to assess, why certain democratic systems are more resilient to crises than others and which political reforms can increase this resilience. The contribution of the scientists at the University of Tartu is to compile information on exceptional measures adopted in Estonia. The project is coordinated by the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

Project website: https://exceptius.com/

Contact person at the UT: Piret Ehin, Associate Professor in Comparative Politics, piret.ehin@ut.ee 



Faculty of Medicine

By a cross-sectional study consisting of several waves, UT researchers are determining the actual prevalence and progress of the pandemic in Estonia. A broad-based team of UT researchers has been involved in the preparation and implementation of the study, including experts from the UT Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health, Institute of Genomics, Institute of Computer Science, Institute of Mathematics and Statistics and Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies. Read more…


University of Tartu researchers in cooperation with doctors from Tartu Ülikooli Perearstikeskus OÜ are conducting a thorough analysis of the Estonian cases of SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes. This allows making informed decisions in the next outbreaks of the virus and using the most efficient methods of prevention and treatment to safeguard major risk groups. Read more… (in Estonian)


The patient questionnaire service to be created as a result of the project automates processes and thus reduces the workload of health care professionals, improves the quality of documenting health data and interaction. Read more… (in Estonian)

The study focuses on the impact of COVID-19 on the nursing care service and nurses working in the local healthcare system. As nurses are the central human resource in healthcare, it is important to assess the nursing care provided in the crisis as well as the factors influencing it to foster the quality and safety of healthcare. Read more…

In the past, Professor of Nanomedicine Teesalu has developed a system of so-called tumour homing peptides for targeted cancer treatment and participated in the clinical development of these peptides. Current studies show that COVID19-causing coronavirus uses similar peptides for infection of cells and spreading. Read more…

The long-term goal of the study is to develop a methodology for the analysis of new, hitherto unknown viral infections, and to generate home-grown knowledge in the field. This would give Estonia the capability to study and diagnose such viral diseases without foreign assistance. Read more… (in Estonian)


The study helps to understand which strains of SARS-CoV-2 circulate in Estonia, how many cases have been imported and what is the extent of local spread. The study aims to clarify which strains have led to which outbreaks and spread in different geographical regions and among which population groups. Read more… (in Estonian)

The University of Tartu, Tartu University Hospital and North Estonia Medical Centre study of the efficiency of convalescent plasma therapy in the treatment of severely ill COVID-19 patients. Read more… (in Estonian and Russian)

One aim of the study is to describe how protective antibodies develop in people infected with SARS-CoV-2, how they relate to major infection markers and correlate with underlying diseases.

The second aim of the study is to develop a SARS-CoV-2 antibody screening test to detect type IgG, IgM and IgA antibodies. Read more… (in Estonian) 


The study aims to identify the share of COVID-19 seropositives in Estonia after the first wave of SARS-CoV-2 infection. The study allows to assess the prevalence of COVID-19 across Estonia and identify regions with higher and lower COVID-19 prevalence. The study will determine the general prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies, helping to make research-based decisions in the prevention and managing of future outbreaks. Read more… (in Estonian)


The study aims to identify and describe immunological and genetic factors that affect the immune response of people infected with SARS-CoV-2, the variations in the progress of the disease and potential complications and their genetic causes. Read more… (in Estonian)

The pilot study by the Health Board and the University of Tartu assesses the precision of the results obtained from saliva samples with results of samples taken from the nose and aims to understand whether people manage to take the samples themselves. If the pilot study is successful, the saliva test will be taken into use more extensively. Read more…

One of the main priorities of medical researchers and professionals is to relieve and curb the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and find an efficient cure to the disease caused by the COVID-19 virus infection. For that purpose, the National Centre of Translational and Clinical Research helps to coordinate several wide-ranging studies involving a large number of volunteers all over Estonia. Read more… (in Estonian)

Researchers from seven countries, including Estonia, envision future reusable face masks that are based on smart nanotechnology. According to the plan, these 3D-printed masks will be more comfortable to wear, have excellent filtration efficiency, self-disinfection capacity and an integrated humidity dissipation system. Read more…

The general goal of this study is to gather data from health care workers in Estonia in the course of preparing for Covid-19 vaccinations, and on the basis of these data, to support the involvement of health care workers in Covid-19 vaccination on the national level in Estonia, and to help create the WHO regional guidelines for Europe, which include recommendations for engaging health care workers to successfully introduce the Covid-19 vaccine. The principal investigator in the project is Associate Professor of Family Medicine Marje Oona.


Faculty of Science and Technology

The project is led by Professor of Technology of Antimicrobial Compounds of the University of Tartu Tanel Tenson and Senior Research Fellow in Molecular Ecology Veljo Kisand.


Principal investigator: Kelli Lehto, Associate Professor of Neuropsychiatric Genetics 


Lead researcher at the University of Tartu: Angela Ivask, Professor in Genetics, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology


Lead researcher at the University of Tartu: Indrek Jõgi, Senior Research Fellow of Plasma Technology, Institute of Physics


Lead researcher at the University of Tartu: Triinu Visnapuu, Associate Professor in Microbiology, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology

Lead researcher at the University of Tartu: Raivo Kolde, Senior Research Fellow of Health Informatics, Institute of Computer Science


Lead researcher at the University of Tartu: Reedik Mägi, Research Professor in Bioinformatics, Institute of Genomics


Lead researcher at the University of Tartu: Lili Milani, Research Professor of Epi- and Pharmacogenomics, Institute of Genomics


Lead researcher at the University of Tartu: Andres Merits, Research Professor, Institute of Technology

Lead researcher at the University of Tartu: Kaido Kurrikoff, Senior Research Fellow in Molecular Biotechnology, Institute of Technology

Lead researcher at the University of Tartu: Jaak Järv, Professor of Organic Chemistry, Institute of Chemistry


Lead researcher at the University of Tartu: Enn Lust, Professor of Physical Chemistry, Institute of Chemistry

Lead researcher at the University of Tartu: Karl Kruusamäe, Associate Professor of Robotics Engineering, Institute of Technology


Lead researcher at the University of Tartu: Heikki Junninen, Professor in Environmental Physics, Institute of Physics


Lead researcher at the University of Tartu: Madis Kiisk, Senior Research Fellow in Ionizing Radiation Physics, Institute of Physics


An interdisciplinary research team of the University of Tartu is actively gathering, modelling and analysing data on the spread of coronavirus. The researchers also invite people to participate in a study on the prevalence of COVID-19 to create a database for mapping and modelling the spread of the virus. The research group comprises computer scientists, statisticians, mathematicians and medical, genetic and social scientists. Read more...



UT coronavirus info and updates


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