Belgium has confirmed a case of the new, more transmissible Covid-19 variant, a virologist says.
It’s the first case in Europe of the variant feared to be more resistant to vaccines.
Marc Van Ranst, whose laboratory works closely with Belgium’s public health body Sciensano, said on Twitter that the variant was found in a traveller returning to Belgium from Egypt on 11 November.
The person developed the first symptoms on Monday, the virologist said.
Scientists are analysing two samples to establish whether they are the new coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa, he explained.
In Belgium, one sample was confirmed as the novel B.1.1.529 variant (in a returning traveller from Egypt (11/11); first symptoms on 22/11).
— Marc Van Ranst (@vanranstmarc) November 26, 2021
Mr Van Ranst told Reuters that the samples were suspicious because they were not the Delta variant, which accounts for almost all infections in Belgium.
He added the results of the analysis should be known this afternoon.
Belgium and the Netherlands were already taking new measures in an attempt to keep a Covid-19 surge from spiralling out of control, hoping to safeguard Christmas.
The country’s prime minister Alexander De Croo had to reinforce measures for the second time in a week, closing night clubs, while bars and restaurants have to close at 11pm for the next three weeks.
A rise in cases and hospital admissions exceeded even the worst medical predictions, forcing Belgium into quick action.
“We have been hoodwinked by the Delta variant,” he said.