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Holidaymakers import British variant

Dozens of holidaymakers brought the variant of coronavirus that originated in Kent (England) back to Belgium during the Christmas break research undertaken by research platform Nextstrain reveals.

178 cases of the British variant have already been confirmed in Belgium.  The number of British variant cases is rising every week.  Today 17% of confirmed cases are thought to be linked to the variant that originated in the Garden of England.

If the variant was going to arrive here sooner or later, the data show that travel during the Christmas break put a turbo on the spread of the UK variant.

Virologists say research indicates that in a very short period of time the UK variant has been imported to places across Belgium. 

“Belgium has 75 new sequences showing a broad diversity and indicating many transmissions” says Dr Emma Hodcroft after looking at the results of analysis of genome sequences of corona samples.

“The diversity in different sequences cannot be explained by the evolution inside the country itself” Belgian scientists maintain. Time was too short.  It’s an indication the variant strain was introduced from abroad several different times.

People who holidayed in the UK are not the only source.  The UK variant is also circulating in the Netherlands and Dubai. There are fears we are now seeing a repeat of the introduction of the virus that happened after skiing holidays in February of last year.

Microbiologist Bruno Verhasselt of Ghent University notes keeping the UK variant out entirely was never an option, but you can try to prevent its rapid advance.  “By stricter border checks you can limit introduction.  We shouldn’t create panic by suggesting we are returning to the height of the crisis.  The virus is extremely catchy.  We need to stick with the measures and buy time to vaccinate the most vulnerable. In this way we can ensure hospitals are not overwhelmed.”

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