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Free PCR testing focuses on elderly people and at-risk groups

Free PCR testing focuses on elderly people and at-risk groups

As of 1 May, the Health Board will change the current PCR testing regime, which will continue to prioritise PCR testing for at-risk groups and people aged 60 and older.

According to Mari-Anne Härma, the Health Board’s acting director general, the need for PCR testing has been reduced nationally, with alternative solutions now able to be used for the surveillance of infectious diseases. ‘Sentinel or sample-based testing, which has been used in the past to monitor the spread of influenza, can be used to assess the spread of the virus. Similarly, wastewater monitoring is being carried out around the country, and a surveillance survey is being conducted by the University of Tartu which will provide a comprehensive picture of the COVID-19 situation in the country,’ said Härma. According to her, it is important to continue to test the elderly and those people who are at risk in order to anticipate any potential burden on the healthcare system and, if necessary, to create additional COVID-19 beds, to monitor epidemiological changes in the virus amongst the elderly, and to sequencing new strains of the virus which may be of concern.

In cooperation with a number of experts, the Health Board will prepare detailed guidance on any changes to the testing strategy, describing who is at risk and in which cases it will continue to be necessary to detect the presence of coronavirus via PCR testing. Testing for at-risk groups will remain available through testing points and mobile sampling teams. For people who are not in any of the at-risk groups PCR testing will no longer be necessary, but will still be available at the individual’s request through paid service providers.

As the role of PCR testing has decreased over time the HOIA mobile app, which used to alert users of their having come into close contact with a carrier of the virus, will also be closed down from May. The HOIA app was launched at the beginning of the pandemic, when vaccines were not available and there was a need for a ‘first alert’. Now the app has served its purpose and people are better able to protect their health. ‘We would like to thank those who made this app possible - it was a great help. Today, greater responsibility lies with the people themselves, and instead of waiting for the state to inform them, we need to follow normal practice for communicable diseases: if you develop any of the symptoms of a viral disease, you should stay at home, see a doctor, and apply to take sick-leave,’ said Härma.

As of 1 May, the Health Board will stop sending out the daily COVID-19 press release, but basic information will still be available on the HealthBoard.ee map. An in-depth epidemic overview will continue to be published on Wednesdays, with this including the results from wastewater analyses. The epidemiological survey will continue throughout the summer, with it being this document which will provide the best overview of the spread of the virus. ‘PCR testing has declined, while many people in Estonia had their vaccinations more than a year ago, with their levels of resistance against the virus now having lowered again, so the daily figures do not reflect the situation as accurately as we would like. Therefore it is prudent to assess what is happening over a longer period,’ said Härma.

Veel uudiseid samal teemal

21.04.2023

A total of 202 influenza and 1,726 COVID-19 cases reported this week 

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14.04.2023

A total of 151 new influenza cases and 1,466 COVID-19 cases have been added this week

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