BELGA/DIRKX

Research into “explosive” outbreaks in Antwerp Province

In recent days there’s been a very worrying increase in the number of corona cases in three Antwerp municipalities. Tests are being carried out to see if a new, possibly more fast-spreading variant of the virus is in play.  In Duffel and Lier the outbreaks are centred on care homes.  In Wuustwezel the outbreak is linked to family connections.

The Mayor of Wuustwezel speaks of an abnormal increase in the number of cases: up 60% in seven days, while his counterpart in Lier points to outbreaks in three care homes and more serious cases than the town is used to.

Tests are being carried out to find out whether the big outbreak in a large care home in Mol, where 26 residents have died, is also linked to a new, and possibly more transmissible variant.

Herman Goossens (pictured), a microbiologist at Antwerp University, who is the head of the Testing Taskforce warns against drawing conclusions prematurely, but confirms the disturbing, “explosive” care home outbreaks.

There is speculation the D614G mutation is in play.  This variant first appeared at the start of 2020 and became dominant from the summer onwards.  It’s being investigated whether it is more transmissible. This variant is not the same as the variant detected in the UK.

The virus recorded at the Antwerp care homes is being analysed to determine whether or not the D614G  mutation is present.

Prof Goossens insists the results of analyses are needed before any conclusions can be drawn adding there are as yet no indications the variant makes you more unwell.

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