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UK coronavirus variant now also found in Brussels

Illustration image of Brussels Grand Place.
Credit: Belga
Illustration image of Brussels Grand Place.

The coronavirus variant that was first detected in the UK has now also been found in the Brussels-Capital Region, according to KU Leuven researcher Piet Maes.

Even though no outbreaks of the more infectious variant have been reported in the capital, about ten out of several hundred samples analysed by Maes were from people in Brussels infected with the UK variant, reports Bruzz.

According to Maes, it concerns samples of travellers who recently returned to Belgium by train or plane, and the number of infections is likely a lot higher than these ten samples.

“We should not be naive and think that the UK variant is not in the whole country,” virologist Marc Van Ranst said on Flemish radio in a reaction to the news that several Flemish schools had closed due to outbreaks. “Our country is too small to keep those variants in one place.”

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According to Van Ranst, it is impossible to say how many infections with the variant are currently circulating in Belgium. “Some labs can detect those variants, others cannot.”

However, closing the borders is not an option, he said, referring to the many lorry drivers who drive from the Netherlands to France through Belgium, and people who work on the other side of the border.

Maes does advocate a longer quarantine period again, of 14 days again. “It is obvious that people are still positive after seven days. People may think they are safe, but are actually still contagious,” he said. “The high-risk groups are going to pay the price for this.”

“It is not good news that there is a new variant and that it is a lot more infectious than the other strains out there,” Maes said. “However, we also have to nuance that news: there is no reason to panic, it was expected and it was inevitable.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times