‘Unnoticed’ coronavirus cases confirmed at the Dutch/Belgian border
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‘Unnoticed’ coronavirus cases confirmed at the Dutch/Belgian border

The Netherlands aims to make sure that the outbreak does not happen all at once. Credit: Belga

The new coronavirus (Covid-19) is spreading under the radar in the Dutch province of Brabant, on the border with Belgium, as many people are only showing symptoms of a regular cold.

A significant proportion of the inhabitants of the Dutch province of Brabant, which shares the Belgian border with the Antwerp province, who have mild symptoms of having a cold, are infected with the coronavirus, a sample showed, reports De Volkskrant.

In hospitals in the province, 4% of employees with mild symptoms appear to have the virus, going as high as 9% in some cities. The province of Brabant also has the highest number of infected people in the entire country, according to Dutch media.

This means that the virus has spread very rapidly, and unnoticed, according to experts, presumably through people who do not feel ill but are still infected and able to pass it on.

However, this also means that dozens of newly discovered infected Dutch people hardly had any issues or complaints, meaning that the virus manifests itself as an innocent cold-like disease much more often than was previously assumed, according to experts.

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“We see a lot of people who are not ill in the way we expect, like we have heard from China,” said infectious disease epidemiologist Patricia Bruijning from the University of Utrecht to De Volkskrant, adding that this does not mean that the country should stop taking measures.

“We have to continue with whatever we are doing now. Identify outbreak zones, contain the spread. If we do not do that, we will overload our care system,” she added.

“We must all jump on this. Become even more aggressive in the fight,” Marion Koopmans, professor of virology, said in Dutch media.

In addition to the advice from the Dutch government to stop shaking hands, sneeze in your elbow and isolate yourself if you think you may be infected, the province is cancelling events such as football matches, parties and carnival parades.

With these measures, Brabant aims to make sure that an outbreak does not happen all at once, like it did in Wuhan or the north of Italy, but can be managed over time.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times