Estonian virologist: Spread of virus only decelerating in isolation

  • 2021-03-01
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Viruses slow down as a result of isolation and quarantine and can be contained as long as borders are closed, which is particularly clear with the current pandemic, Irja Lutsar, virology professor and head of the anti-COVID-19 research council advising the Estonian government, told Postimees.

Lutsar said that the virus strain originating in South Africa has not spread in Estonia to any significant extent.

"These cases have all been imported," she said, adding that of the cases of the mutated virus strain originating in the United Kingdom, only one-fourth have been brought into the country.

"The British strains are definitely already circulating locally," Lutsar noted.

Estonian Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik said that altogether 738 coronavirus samples had been sequenced in Estonia as at Feb. 26 -- 183 of which were collected from people arriving from abroad and 555 from those who had not been traveling. The British strain was found in 83 samples, of which 33 had been brought into the country and 50 had been contracted locally. Additionally, five mutant strains of South African origin were also found, all of which had been brought into Estonia from various states abroad.

The strains brought into the country from abroad do not appear to be spreading extensively in Estonia, however.

"We'll reach 2,000 daily infections also without the British strain," Lutsar said. Numerous new cases emerge every day in northern Estonia, that is in Harju, East-Viru and West-Viru counties. "Our increase in the infection rate is not attributable to the British strain," she underscored.

While the humankind has suffered from pandemics before, the virus was previously spread at a slower pace due to seafarers recovering from the illness during long sea travels, according to Lutsar.

The situation has changed today as people can cover long distances in just ten hours, she noted.

"With this pandemic in particular, we can see that the virus loses its pace with isolation and quarantine. The infection rate is not very high in Australia and New Zealand, but they are also very closed. As long as borders remain closed, the virus can be contained," the virologist said.

A number of new strains of COVID-19 have been discovered since December, including those originating in the United Kingdom, Brazil, California, southern Germany, New York and Lithuania.

"We'll see even more of them," Lutsar said.