Belgium detects first case of new COVID variant in Europe

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By Reuters
Belgium seeks to curb social life to fight fourth COVID wave
Belgium seeks to curb social life to fight fourth COVID wave   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021   -  

<div> <p>By Marine Strauss and Philip Blenkinsop</p> <p><span class="caps">BRUSSELS</span> -Belgium detected Europe’s first confirmed case of the new variant of <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 on Friday, and at the same time announced measures aimed at curbing a rapidly spreading fourth wave of coronavirus infections.</p> <p>Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told a news conference that a case of variant B.1.1.529 had been found in an unvaccinated person who had developed symptoms and tested positive on Nov. 22.</p> <p>“It is a suspicious variant. We do not know if it is a very dangerous variant,” he said.</p> <p>The new coronavirus variant, first detected in South Africa, has caused global alarm https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/japan-tighten-border-controls-s-africa-others-new-virus-variant-jiji-2021-11-26, with the EU and Britain among those tightening border controls as researchers seek to find out if the mutation is vaccine-resistant https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/what-we-know-about-covid-19-variant-detected-south-africa-2021-11-26.</p> <p>Belgium’s national reference laboratory said the infected person was a young adult woman who had developed symptoms 11 days after returning from a trip to Egypt via Turkey. She had flu-like symptoms, but no signs to date of severe disease.</p> <p>None of her household members developed symptoms, but were being tested.</p> <p>The new variant has emerged as Belgium and many other European countries are battling a surge in coronavirus infections.</p> <p>Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced that nightclubs would close and bars and restaurants would have to shut by 11 p.m. for three weeks from Saturday, and have a maximum six people per table. </p> <p>The strain on the health service was mounting, De Croo told a news conference, adding,“If we did not have such a high rate of vaccination today, we would be in an absolutely drastic situation”.</p> <p>A previous package of coronavirus restrictions imposed a week ago included enforcing wider use of masks and more working from home.</p> <p>Under the new rules, private parties and gatherings are also banned, unless they are for weddings or funerals, and Belgians will have to do shopping on their own. </p> <p>The country’s health ministers will meet on Saturday to discuss accelerating the roll-out of vaccine booster doses.</p> <p>Belgium, home to European Union institutions and the headquarters of <span class="caps">NATO</span>, has the sixth-highest number of cases per capita rate in Europe, behind the likes of Austria and Slovakia that have re-entered lockdowns. </p> <p>The fatality rate though is just below the EU average, with 75% of the population vaccinated against <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19.</p> </div>