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New coronavirus strain detected in the Netherlands

Credit: Belga

The new, seemingly more contagious variant of coronavirus that has been identified in the UK has been detected in two people in the Netherlands, Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said Tuesday.

Both cases were detected in the Amsterdam area, and it remains unclear how these people contracted the virus.

“We have to be realistic, there is a chance (that other people have been infected with the new variant of the coronavirus, NDLR). But we don’t think it’s widespread, it’s not comparable to the UK situation,” said de Jonge.

The Netherlands, along with about 50 other countries, has taken additional safety measures to prevent the importation and spread of the virus.

In particular, the country has suspended passenger transport from across the Channel for 10 days. The government does not consider that more stringent measures are necessary at this time, as the Netherlands has been under strict lockdown since last week.

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This news comes after Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst presented his theory that the 4 people with the new virus in Belgium got it from the Netherlands, not the UK.

The new mutation – which has seen the UK return to strict lockdown measures for the holiday period – has also been found “sporadically” in Belgium and the Netherlands, according to virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht on Monday.

In Belgium, the variant has been discovered a total of four times since the end of November, he said. However, “this mutant we found in a border town in Belgium did not come from the United Kingdom, but through contact with a positive person in the Netherlands, Zeeland,” Van Ranst explained.

Belgium was among the first countries to ban passenger travel from the UK, shutting down the Eurostar as well as flights, following the discovery of the new strain, which is thought to be more infectious.

Travel between the UK and Belgium will resume on Wednesday under stricter conditions, while travel to the Netherlands remains discouraged.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times