Covid-19: ‘British variant’ closes two schools as virus sweeps through Flanders

Covid-19: ‘British variant’ closes two schools as virus sweeps through Flanders
The OLFA Esldonck primary school in Edegem. © Belga

Two schools in Antwerp province and another in Aalst this weekend reported cases of infection by the so-called ‘British variant’ of the virus that causes Covid-19.

The news of the spread of the variant, officially known as B-117, follows the news at the weekend that at least 128 people in the West Flanders town of Houthulst have been infected with B-117 – a variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that has proved more infectious than the original, although not more deadly.

The Houthulst outbreak hit hardest in a care home and the sheltered living facility attached to it, and affected both staff and residents, three of whom have already died.

The schools in Edegem and Kontich in Antwerp province were immediately closed. Two cases were found at a Catholic primary school in Edegem and one at a secondary school in Kontich. Staff and pupils at the school in Kontich have to quarantine for ten days.

In both cases, the decision to close and isolate was taken in conjunction with school and medical authorities, including Antwerp university hospital (UZA).

In Aalst, meanwhile, on student at a special needs school in Aalst is known to be infected. The school remains open, but all potential contacts with the student have been ordered to go into quarantine until cleared of infection.

The school stressed it was taking extreme measures – only high-risk contacts are obliged to quarantine – out of concern not to allow the infection to spread. The rest of the students will continue to attend classes either in place or online.

We realize that this measure has far-reaching consequences: about 1,450 students, 250 staff members and all their family members must go into quarantine,” said Kontich mayor Bart Seldeslachts (N-VA).

“But with the end of the corona crisis in sight, it is all the more important to prevent the spread of the virus.”

The infection was diagnosed in one person associated with the school, but not inside the school itself, he said. On Tuesday, a team from the UZA will test all students and staff.

So we will know more on Wednesday,” he said.

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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