Sequence Analysis Suggests Further Spread of Coronavirus

Vala Hafstað

Sequence analysis of samples from individuals infected with COVID-19 in Iceland has revealed one more case that includes a variant of the SARS-CoV-2 - the virus that causes the disease - similar to the one already found in three unrelated groups of people in the country. This variant is new to Iceland, and its origin is unknown.

“So, now we have four groups infected with the same [variant of] the virus, without knowing how they are connected,” Kári Stefánsson, CEO of deCode Genetics, tells mbl.is. He believes many more people are infected, without having been diagnosed.

“There must be a number of individuals, who are infected and who connect these four groups together,” he states. He adds he will fully support decisions soon to be made by Icelandic health authorities, “because we’ve come to a point where all of us must cooperate.” He states that deCode Genetics will continue its screening process, regardless of what decisions health authorities make.

“They must make the decisions they deem correct, but personally, at this moment, I find this alarming enough, and it would make me feel better if they decided to tighten restrictions substantially,” he adds. “We will do everything in our power to help contain the pandemic.”

First, deCode Genetics plans to screen a random sample of people from Reykjavík and Akranes, West Iceland, where a cluster of seven infections has occurred, to see how widely the virus has spread. Secondly, threre will be systematic screening of people around the four groups that have been infected with the new variant of the virus.

When asked how extensive the screening will be, Kári responds that speed is of essence. The number of people screened will depend on how many register for screening and how well the screening effort goes. For this urgent task, between 20 and 30 staff members at deCode Genetics, who were on vacation, have returned to work to take part.

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