UK and South Africa potent COVID-19 strains not found in Estonia so far

The main building at the University of Tartu (TÜ).
The main building at the University of Tartu (TÜ). Source: Andres Tennus/University of Tartu

None of the more potent coronavirus strains detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa and attracting international media attention in the process have been found in Estonia to date, researchers at the University of Tartu say.

Whole-genome analysis funded by the state and conducted in the KoroGeno-EST2 project by medical researchers at the University of Tartu have not revealed any of the presumably more rapidly spreading British (genotype B.1.1.7) or South African (genotype B.1.351) strains. In Estonia so far.

Associate Professor in Medical Virology at the university and lead researcher in the project , Radko Avi, adds that while the whole genome analysis has seen an all-clear in Estonia so far, with regard to the strains, caution should be exercised.

"The fact that we did not find these strains does not mean they have not reached Estonia. They simply did not turn up in our sample," Avi said, via a university press release.

The N501Y mutation associated with the faster spread of the virus has not been detected in Estonia yet either.

Private and public sector cooperation

The "South African" and "British" strains have received the most international media attention recently, the university says, and have been associated with increased infection rates.

Project KoroGeno-EST-2 will nonetheless continue its work; the project has sequenced 34 SARS-CoV-2 whole genomes from November 2020 through to the first week of January this year.

The project aims to determine 350 whole-genome sequences of SARS-CoV-2.

The project team comprises researchers from the Institute of Clinical Medicine, Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine and Institute of Technology at the University of Tartu, together with specialists from private sector firm SYNLAB, and the state Health Board (Terviseamet).

Arrivals from the U.K. in Estonia are also subject to more stringent regulations, including the requirement to provide proof of passing negative on a recent coronavirus test, and a 14-day quarantine period, compared with a 10-day period for arrivals from most other states. A reciprocal, similar regime for arrivals in the U.K. from Estonia will enter into force on Monday.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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