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Virologist Marc Van Ranst: "New variant of coronavirus probably present in other countries too”

The Leuven University (KUL) virologist Professor Marc Van Ranst has told VRT News that the more infectious variant of coronavirus that has come to light in the UK is likely to be present in many other countries too. Speaking in an interview with VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’, Professor Van Ranst also said that he understood why a number of countries, including Belgium, have introduced a temporary ban on people travelling from the UK.

"It is a reflex reaction and as a precaution it is understandable”.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that the variant is not present elsewhere, nor that it is most prevalent in England. “It is simply the case that England is the country where most of these mutations are able to be detected because that look for them a lot. There are countries that don’t or almost don’t look out for variants. They simply have no idea”, Professor Van Ranst told ‘De ochtend’.

But what about here in Belgium?

"In Belgium we have a good idea of what is in circulation here, but this is even more the case in the UK. I think that during the coming days a considerable number of countries will find cases. It would surprise me if the opposite were true”.  

In Belgium the variant was found at the end of November and the beginning of this month in 4 samples out 2,000 taken from people that had tested positive for coronavirus.

Professor Van Ranst concluded by say that only the future will show whether the current travel ban is- out of proportion.

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