For now, only a minority of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) infections in Belgium are attributable to the new UK strain, but the number is bound to increase, virologist Marc Van Ranst said on Sunday.
Where the South African strain is concerned, only a few cases have been detected.
Generally, the increase in infections has slowed down in recent days, and both hospital admissions and deaths continue to decrease.
However, around noon on Sunday, news broke that an outbreak of the UK strain had been detected in the commune of Houthulst, West Flanders, with 128 persons infected, 63 of them in a nursing home.
While only a minority of samples in Belgium have tested positive for the new strain, the number could shoot up, according to Van Ranst.
“The figures have been increasing since New Year,” he said. “The British strain was already present, but we’ve noted an increase since the new year. And the movement of tourists has also contributed to its spread. We are going to see how the situation evolves in the coming days and weeks.”
The virologist feels there is a need to focus on the UK strain.
“It’s important to identify these different strains,” he said. “That’s necessary even if the severity of the illness remains the same. That’s why it’s important to respect the [COVID-related] measures, including in the fight against the UK strain. Correctly ventilating places is thus crucial.”