The first reported case in Europe of a new variant of COVID has been discovered in Belgium.
Variant B.1.1.529, which is of concern due to its “extremely high” number of mutations, was first detected in South Africa.
Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said he had now found himself in Belgium.
“We have a now confirmed case of this variant,” he said on Friday. “It is about someone who came from abroad, who tested positive on November 22, who was not vaccinated.”
The country’s chief virologist, Mark Van Ranst, said the variant was detected in “a traveler returning from Egypt.”
The first detection of this new, potentially highly contagious variant was announced on Thursday.
Several European countries, including France, Germany and Italy, have already imposed new travel restrictions with South Africa and neighboring countries that include a 14-day quarantine period for travelers, whether vaccinated or not.
The European Commission recommended that all EU countries follow suit. President Ursula von der Leyen wrote in a statement on Friday that “all air travel to these countries must be suspended.”
“They must be suspended until we have a clear understanding of the danger posed by this new variant. And travelers returning from this region must respect strict quarantine rules,” he added.
The announcement that the new variant has been detected in Belgium came alongside a new round of “winter” measures, which takes effect on Saturday, as the country is battling a new wave of infections and hospitalizations.
Private gatherings indoors are now prohibited, except for weddings and funerals, although no more than 50 people can attend, 100 if the meeting is held outdoors.
Nightclubs were ordered to close, while restaurant and bar opening hours are restricted from 05:00 to 23:00 and only seated customers and no more than six people are allowed at a table.
Indoor sports competitions may be held, but spectators are not allowed, except for the parents of participating children under the age of 18.
“Today’s situation is worse than all the scenarios that all the experts showed us last week at a time when the impact of last week’s measures is not yet visible today,” Prime Minister Alexander told reporters. From Croo.
“We know that the vaccine is a layer of protection, the mask is a layer of protection, the test is a layer of protection, but today there is no protection that is absolute, there is always some risk.”
“Unfortunately we must (impose new restrictions), and I temporarily hope and hope that when we do the assessment on December 15, we can have a better end-of-the-year celebration compared to the situation we will have starting tomorrow, but You must intervene now.” , said.
Last week, authorities reimposed the widespread use of face masks and mandatory remote work.
Belgium has recorded an average of 14,030 new infections daily over the past 14 days, an increase of 66% over the previous two-week period. Meanwhile, hospital admissions have increased by 46% during the past two weeks and deaths by 45% with an average of 33 deaths per day during the previous 14 days.
The country of 11.5 million has lost more than 26,790 lives since the start of the pandemic and has recorded more than 1.68 million confirmed infections.
About 88% of the country’s adult population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to figures from Public health Belgium.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism