Belgium confirmed that a new CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus variant has been detected in the country, according to health officials. It is the first known case of the new variant in Europe.
The variant—which was first detected in South Africa and has been named B.1.1.529—was identified in a tourist returning to Belgium from Egypt on Nov. 11, Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst said on Twitter. The person developed the first symptoms on Nov. 22, he added.
Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said the case was identified in a man in his thirties who was returning from a holiday trip in Egypt, local news agency VRT reported.
The unidentified man experienced mild symptoms from the variant. The B.1.1.529 variant is likely to be named “Nu” by World Health Organization experts on Friday. If the name gets approved, it would be the next available letter in the Greek naming system for COVID-19 variants.
“We have one confirmed case of this variant, it is someone who came from abroad, this person has been tested on Nov. 22, he was not vaccinated and had no prior infection, so this case has been observed and confirmed, but I want to repeat that it is a suspicious variant, we don’t know if it’s a very dangerous variant. That we do not know,” says Vandenbroucke.
It is currently unclear where the new variant actually arose, but it was first detected by scientists in South Africa and has, besides Belgium, also been seen in travelers to Botswana, Hong Kong, and Israel. South African scientists say the new variant is behind a recent spike in COVID-19 infections in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on Friday ordered a new set of measures as officials in the country report that CCP virus cases are again increasing. The new measures will include closing nightclubs for three weeks and restricting privately organized parties.
“The bars, cafe, and restaurant sector will have additional measures and will have the obligation to shut down at 11 p.m., and maximum six persons per table, except if they are from the same family,” De Croo announced. “Nightclubs and dancing clubs will have to be completely closed, once again, and I know that it is a tough message.”
The United Kingdom on Thursday said it was concerned by the newly identified variant and banned flights from six southern African countries. Israel has also imposed a travel ban on most African states.
In the United States, which recently lifted its ban on tourism from many locations globally, Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said he wants to see more data on the new variant before making further announcements.
American officials are expected to meet with South African officials on Friday to discuss the variant. There is currently no indication if the variant has arrived in the United States yet.