Two new cases with the British alternative in Belgium

Dries de Smet, Maxi Eckert

Rega Institute (KU Leuven) confirmed that two new cases of Coronavirus with the British variant have appeared in our country. It involved two people who tested positive for the virus the week before Christmas. Samples were re-examined on Friday to map the genome sequences. So it was shown to be related to infection with the British variant.

These are two separate cases, both cases are not related. The two people returned from the United Kingdom. According to researcher Pete Mays from the Riga Institute, there are also no indications that the two cases have led to more infections in our country, because the quarantine has been strictly followed. “Nobody is injured in their bubble.”

Stephen van Gucht, a Sciensano virologist, thinks more cases will emerge. “I expect we will discover many. People have returned from the UK and some have been infected. If we do genome sequencing of their samples, there is a good chance that we will find the British variant. After all, it is the dominant virus strain in the UK.”

Since January 2, travelers entering Belgium must be tested upon arrival. This test checks if someone has the virus. Additional testing can reveal the type of virus involved.

More vigilance

In our country, the vigilance of the British variant is high. After all, it is half contagious, according to two British studies. This means that the risk of an outbreak is greater and that more stringent measures are needed to avoid another wave of infections.

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Not only in the UK, but in Denmark, the British variant, referred to as B 1.1.7, is gaining traction. These Danish data seem to confirm the observation that the new variant is clearly more contagious. The British variant is also found in many countries. Last month, the new variant appeared in the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, France, Spain, Italy and Portugal, among other countries.

A matter of time

Earlier, at least three, and possibly four, cases appeared in our country in November. As far as is known, these have not led to further outbreaks. All cases found so far are patients with a travel history.

There have already been local outbreaks in Denmark and the Netherlands. In the Netherlands there has been an outbreak in several schools. The question is how long Belgium will be able to avoid an outbreak. “It’s only a matter of time before the British alternative gets traded here,” says Bruno Verhasselt, head of the department at UZ Gent’s medical microbiology lab. “But the question is when, and whether, will it spread widely.”

Amber Webster

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