The Omicron variant of the coronavirus now accounts for 20% of all Covid-19 infections in Belgium, virologist Emmanuel André, in charge of the national reference laboratory for Covid-19, said on Monday.
The first case of Omicron in Belgium was detected just under a month ago after it was first reported in South Africa, and the number of cases has been rising ever since.
Two weeks ago, the variant accounted for just 0.3% of all cases. Last Thursday, this percentage had increased to 6% of infection, and by Friday, to 10%. This has now doubled, with the strain, which has the most mutations of any variant since the start of the pandemic, accounting for 20% of all cases.
Update #Omicron in Belgium: this new variant reached 20% of all positive tests this morning.
Today is monday. It was 10% on Friday.
— Emmanuel André (@Emmanuel_microb) December 20, 2021
According to Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst, the Omicron variant will be the dominant strain earlier than expected, between Christmas and New Year.
The GEMS, the group of experts that advises the Belgian authorities on the coronavirus epidemic, will meet again on Monday evening to assess the health situation.
Belgium’s Consultative Committee is set to meet on Wednesday to discuss the situation and to possibly implement new measures in response to it. Politicians and health experts are divided on whether it should follow the Dutch example and opt for a full-blown lockdown for the festivities.
Since 16 December, the number of coronavirus cases with the Omicron strain in Europe has increased by 1,533, bringing the total number of Omicron infections in the region to 4,691, according to the latest data published on Monday by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, where the variant is spreading most rapidly, recorded an additional 12,133 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant on Sunday, bringing the total number of confirmed Omicron cases to 37,101.
#OmicronVariant latest information
12,133 additional confirmed cases of the #Omicron variant of COVID-19 have been reported across the UK.
Confirmed Omicron cases in the UK now total 37,101. pic.twitter.com/fKJ87MEkpM
— UK Health Security Agency (@UKHSA) December 19, 2021