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Update: New UK, South African variant Covid strains detected in Finland

Three people have been diagnosed with two different strains of the virus.

Health care worker administers coronavirus test at drive-in testing site, file photo. Image: Jorge Gonzalez / Yle

Three people who recently returned to Finland from abroad have been diagnosed with new strains of the coronavirus, according to a joint press release from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (STM), the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Helsinki University Hospital District (HUS).

Two of the infections are a variant of the coronavirus that was recently identified in the UK and one has been confirmed to have been infected by the variant found in South Africa.

The strains were identified in a collaboration between the HUS and the virology laboratories of the University of Helsinki.

According to the joint statement, the infected patients are presently in good condition and are being treated in isolation. People who may have been exposed to the new virus variants have been quarantined and have been asked to undergo a coronavirus test.

One variant infection found earlier on Monday

Earlier on Monday, Finnish health authorities in Kymenlaakso confirmed that a new strain of the coronavirus—initially discovered in the UK—had been detected in a patient diagnosed over the Christmas holiday.

Marja-Liisa Mäntymaa, the chief medical officer at Social and Health Services in Kymenlaakso (Kymsote), confirmed to Yle that the strain had been detected in the health district.

The news was first reported by local paper Kouvola Sanomat.

According to Finnish news agency STT authorities said the patient had arrived from Western Europe.

The mutated coronavirus variant is suspected to be more contagious than the previous strain and is also thought to be more transmissible among young people.

Confirmations of the variant have been made in many European countries, including in neighbouring Sweden, where the first case was detected on Saturday.

Last week the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) recommended that any person who travelled to Finland from the United Kingdom on or after 7 December apply for a coronavirus test.

Passenger flights from the UK have also been suspended until early January.