TALLINN - The British strain of the coronavirus has become predominant in Estonia, accounting for close to 70 percent of COVID-19 cases already last week, Postimees reports.
Hanna Sepp, head of the infection control department at the Health Board, said that the share of the British strain has been growing from week to week.
"Greater focus should be placed on identifying and monitoring virus strains with mutations from South Africa as they may have a higher potential for spreading, which may lead to severer cases of illness," Sepp said.
When asked by Postimees if people who have contracted the South African strain of the coronavirus should be restricted and monitored more, Estonian Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik said that based on other states' experience, it is the British strain that has the tendency to become predominant.
"The South African strain has not become as widespread [as the British strain] in any European state. The strain with the mutation from the United Kingdom is indeed widespread in Estonia, it is predominant," he said.
Kiik noted that while some 70 percent of the cases are currently attributable to the British strain, the proportion changes constantly. Sooner or later the share will be 100 percent, like it was in the United Kingdom, and the introduction of restrictions must be based on that fact, he said.
"What we're currently dealing here with is a virus variant with a somewhat higher risk of transmission, which means that we need stricter measures than usual to keep the infection rate below one and bring down all infection figures," Kiik noted.
The volume of samples sequenced per week has significantly increased, according to the minister.
"While previously it was around over 400 per week, it has now grown to some 1,000 samples. Altogether 1,580 samples had been fully sequenced as of March 15," he said.