Belgium announced on Monday that the variant of the coronavirus identified in the United Kingdom has been circulating in Belgium for at least a month, which joins the Netherlands and Italy who have also announced to have detected this strain. “This variant is not limited to the United Kingdom, it has been detected in other places in the world, among others in the Netherlands and Belgium,” Yves Van Laethem, spokesman for the technical team against the coronavirus, declared this Monday at a press conference.
The virologist added that “currently there are 4 known cases in Belgium and that detection was made a month ago“.
“It is possible that there are more cases circulating in our country and in other countries of continental Europe,” added Van Laethem.
The virologist recalled that this mutation has been known “since September” and that it currently represents “the 60% of new infections in the UK“.” There are other variants that circulate in our country and other countries (…). It is totally normal that variants appear “and” eventually become dominant, “added Van Laethem, who indicated that it is not known if the new variant is transmitted more easily and” we still have to wait to have a certain amount of data to see if it really is more contagious. ”
“In any case, nothing shows us that it is more violent, more aggressive or more dangerous for our health. Nothing shows us that it prevents vaccines from giving us immunity against Covid marked with that variant, “he added.
The Belgian expert attributed the fact that the variant has been identified in the United Kingdom to that country has “one of the most efficient genetic research and surveillance programs and complete of the world “, that allows them to analyze” systematically between 5 and 10% of the samples to know their genetic composition “.
“Many other countries are much more limited in the percentage of samples they study in depth,” said Van Laethem, who pointed out that the United Kingdom is not the only place where infections increase significantly, something that also occurs in the Netherlands, Denmark, Czech Republic and Slovakia. . In any case, recommended “not to travel and limit travel as much as possible”.
Belgium, like Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy or Austria, Canada or Israel, announced this Sunday that it temporarily closes air and rail connections with the United Kingdom for at least 24 hours due to the new variant of the coronavirus detected in that country. country.
According to Monday’s epidemiological bulletin, infections in Belgium advanced in the last week by 13%, to 2,547 new daily cases, and deaths increased by a symbolic 0.2%, which is the first time that this indicator turns red in weeks. Hospitalizations, however, continue to show a slow rate of decline, 3% per week, and the cumulative incidence increases by 5% to 292.3 new daily cases averaging over 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days.
“The number of infections continues to increase, but for a few days it has not done so quickly. It is still a source of concern (…) but now we do not attend what we see in other countries around us in Europe, with much more important increases, “said the spokesman.
Van Laethem added that “a part of those cases” responds to more tests are done, with a weekly increase of 18% to 37,600 daily tests on average and positivity decreases, although “slowly”, and currently stands at 7%.
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