Brussels | A case of a new variant of COVID-19, first detected in South Africa and not yet found in Europe, has been identified in a man who returned to Egypt via Turkey in Belgium.
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“We now have a case that confirms this discrepancy,” Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbrook said at a news conference dedicated to announcing new control measures in the face of the epidemic.
According to the minister, the patient was returning from abroad, had not been vaccinated and had a positive test on Monday.
The minister’s office told the AFP in the afternoon that the man, “who came from Egypt and passed through Turkey,” had arrived in Belgian soil on November 11.
Neither the gender nor the citizenship of this person has been disclosed by the authorities.
According to Flemish Public Broadcasting VRT, he is a person in his thirties.
The first detection of this new variant B.1.1.529, which may be highly contagious, was announced on Thursday in South Africa.
“It’s a dubious variant, we do not know it’s a very dangerous variant. Do not panic,” said Frank Vandenbrook.
A spokesman for the minister assured of the epidemic that “it is too early to get an accurate view”, noting that the variation appeared in a country with a “completely different vaccination environment”.
Recognizing the discrepancy, several European countries and the Philippines decided on Friday to suspend flights from South Africa and other South African countries.
Other countries, such as Japan, recommend isolation for travelers to the area.
On Friday afternoon the European Commission recommended that all EU member states suspend flights to South Africa and other countries affected by the emergence of the new variant.
The Commission recommends suspending flights to countries affected by the new variant
The European Commission on Friday proposed to member states to suspend flights to South Africa and other countries and other countries affected by the appearance of the new variant B.1.1.529, its chairman Ursula von der Leyen announced.
Several member states, including France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, have already taken similar action against the new variant announced Thursday in South Africa. A case was found in Hong Kong, Israel for a man returning from Malawi, but also in Belgium, the first European country to be affected.
“The European Commission today proposed to implement ’emergency brakes’ on travel from South African countries and other affected countries to control the spread of the new variant to member states. All flights to these countries should be suspended until we clearly understand the dangers posed by this new variant,” he said in a statement.
“Furthermore, travelers returning from the region must adhere to strict isolation rules,” the German continued.
The European executive, who did not provide a list of countries affected by the suspension, submitted his proposal to representatives of member states during a meeting in Brussels.
The EU countries should approve this recommendation.
The head of the commission urged Europeans not to vaccinate as soon as possible, and stressed that boosters provide “even better protection”.
“EU agreements with manufacturers should be immediately amended to new varieties as soon as the vaccine appears,” he recalled.
A quarter of adults in the EU have not been fully vaccinated, he lamented Thursday.