Daily: 'Indian' coronavirus strain identified in Estonian lab last week

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Irja Lutsar, chief of the government's coronavirus advisory council, has urged a lack of hysteria, both on the arrival of the 'Indian' COVID-19 strain, and on the implications of its presence. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

A case of the so-called Indian coronavirus strain has been identified in Estonia, daily Postimees reported Friday. A laboratory identified the sample, which was vectored in via an individual who arrived from Finland last week.

When the sample was found to contain the Indian COVID-19 variant, several retests were conducted to be certain, Professor Irja Lutsar, head of the government's coronavirus advisory board, said.

"When scientists discovered that it may be the Indian strain, it was checked several times," Lutsar said.

"We had to make sure all the mutations were present and that we would not release any information which would subsequently have to be refuted the next day," she went on, potentially anticipating conspiracy-theory-like push-back from non-experts on why the strain's arrival had not been reported earlier.

"It was placed into sequencing, and no one held it back longer than required," Lutsar added.

The sample arrived in Estonia in relation to work commuting between it and Finland, while the individual who had tested positive has been contacted by the Health Board (Terviseamet) and instructed to self-quarantine as per standard practice, BNS reports.

Meanwhile Irja Lutsar's colleague on the advisory council, Professor Andres Merits, urged caution, noting that the Indian variant had already been identified in Estonia last October, but was not followed by a mass spread.

"I would say everyone who has become infected with the virus should be responsible. There is no evidence that the Indian strain has a spread advantage over other strains," Merits said.

While the Indian strain may propagate more rapidly than the so-called British variant, comparisons should be viewed with a discerning eye, Merits said, given that the two strains have not coexisted, either in India or in the U.K., on any scale so far.

Existing coronavirus vaccines are as effective on the Indian variant as on the U.K. one, Merits added, and Irja Lutsar concurred.

"The Indian strain is still on the list of strains of interest, not those causing concern," Lutsar added, noting that the variant is present in about 50 percent of positive cases in India itself, meaning it is not the only factor in recent outbreaks and viral spread on the sub-continent which has, according to international media reports, hit all castes, from Bollywood stars to the poorest, alike.

The Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela, which brought large crowds to the banks of the River Ganges as per tradition earlier this month, has been another reported factor in viral spread in India.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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