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Belgium records 1st case of new coronavirus variant in Europe

Belgium on Friday recorded the first case of the most recently detected coronavirus variant from southern Africa, the country’s health minister announced on Friday.

Speaking at a news conference, Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said an unvaccinated traveler had carried the new B.1.1.529 variant, entering the country, testing positive on Monday.

“Caution is necessary, but don’t panic,” he said in a public warning.

According to the Belgian public broadcaster RTBF, the traveler was a young woman who traveled to Egypt and transited through Turkey.

She claimed she did not have any contact with anyone from the southern African region and started to develop symptoms 11 days after she arrived in Egypt.

The new heavily mutated variant, which might be able to evade vaccines, was detected in South Africa.

Britain suspended flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe as of Friday noon.

Belgian coronavirus situation

The country registered 25,367 new COVID-19 infections on Monday which is the highest daily number since the beginning of the pandemic, the public health institute Sciensano said in its weekly report on Friday.

An average of 16,762 people tested positive for the virus every day on Nov. 16-22, which is an increase of 48% from the previous week.

To stem the rise of COVID-19 cases, the Belgian government announced new measures for the upcoming three weeks.

Nightclubs and discos have to shut, while restaurants, bars, and cafes are obliged to close at 11 p.m. every night and a maximum of six people can sit at the same table.

Private parties will also be banned, but funerals and weddings can still be organized.