The coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom is projected to soon become the dominant strain of coronavirus in Belgium, Emmanuel André, a leading microbiologist at Belgium’s National Reference Laboratory for Covid-19, said on Friday.
“Based on the early indicators, we made projections which showed that…the UK variant, the B.1.1.7, is now in a trajectory which will totally or near-totally replace the other circulating strains that we still have in Belgium,” André told CNN.
“This [variant] is having a reproduction rate which is — there is still a margin of error — between 1.5 and 1.9, so there's clearly an exponential phenomenon that is starting now,” he added.
According to the National Reference Laboratory, based at KU Leuven, the UK variant could represent “about 90 percent to 95 percent” of infections in Belgium by early March.
Pressed on whether government restrictions would be enough to stem the spread of the new variant, André noted that while current measures are “quite strict,” there is a need for them to be reinforced.
“Belgium is a small country so things can start very rapidly…we need to be very careful, or it goes up,” André warned.
“The health system, the prevention system, the testing and tracing and so on, has continuously improved in the last year, but it's clear today that it’s not managing with this more infectious variant,” he added.