Omicron: Europe's first reported case of new COVID variant has been discovered in Belgium

Omicron: Europe's first reported case of new COVID variant has been discovered in Belgium

Europe’s first reported case of a new COVID variant has been discovered in Belgium.

The B.1.1.529 variant, which is causing concern because of its “extremely high” number of mutations, was first detected in South Africa.

Health minister Frank Vandenbroucke said it had now been found in Belgium.

“We have a case that is now confirmed of this variant,” he said on Friday. “This is someone who came from abroad, who tested positive on November 22, who was not vaccinated.”

The country’s chief virologist, Mark Van Ranst, said the variant was detected in “a returning traveller from Egypt”.

The first detection of this new variant, potentially highly contagious, was announced on Thursday.

Several European countries including France, Germany and Italy, have already imposed new travel restrictions with South Africa and neighbouring countries that include a 14-day quarantine period for travellers whether they are vaccinated or not.

The European Commission has recommended all EU countries follow suit with President Ursula von der Leyen writing in a statement on Friday that “all air travel to these countries should be suspended.”

“They should be suspended until we have a clear understanding about the danger posed by this new variant. And travellers returning from this region should respect strict quarantine rules,” she added.

The announcement that the new variant has been detected in Belgium came alongside a new round of “winter” measures, that will come into force on Saturday, as the country is battling a new surge of infections and hospitalisations.

Private gatherings inside are now banned except for weddings and funerals although no more than 50 people can attend — 100 if the gathering is held outside.

Nightclubs have been ordered shut while opening hours for restaurants and bars are restricted from 05:00 to 23:00 with only sitting customers allowed and no more than six people at a table.

Indoor sports competitions can take place but no spectators — except parents of participating children under the age of 18 — are allowed.

“The situation today is worse than all the scenarios that all the experts showed us last week at a time when the impact of the measures last week are not yet visible today,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told reporters

“We know that the vaccine is a layer of protection, the mask is a layer of protection, the test is a layer of protection, but there is no protection today that is absolute, there is always some risk.”

“We must unfortunately (impose new restrictions), and I hope temporarily and I hope when we make the evaluation on December 15, we will be able to have better end of the year celebration compared to the situation we will have from tomorrow, but we must intervene now,” he said.

Last week, authorities reimposed the extended use of the face masks and mandatory remote work.

Belgium has recorded an average of 14,030 new infections daily over the past 14 days, a surge of 66% on the previous two-week period. Hospital admissions have meanwhile risen by 46% over the past two weeks and deaths by 45% with an average of 33 fatalities per day over the previous 14 days.

The country of 11.5 million has lost more than 26,790 lives since the beginning of the pandemic and recorded over 1.68 million confirmed infections.

About 88% of the country’s adult population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to figures from Santé Publique Belgique.

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Russia forced NATO to seriously discuss US-dominated bloc's expansion, says Indian expert

The very fact that Russia and the United States are discussing this topic is important, Nandan Unnikrishnan pointed out Read more »

Britain to start rolling out Pfizer COVID pill next month

LONDON – Britain will start rolling out Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill to vulnerable people next month, the health ministry said on Friday, targeting the treatment at people with compromised immune systems ... Read more »

Donors seek more WHO action on sexual abuse after Congo scandal

GENEVA – A group of more than 50 countries, led by Britain, asked the World Health Organization on Friday to strengthen its approach to dealing with sexual abuse, exploitation and ... Read more »

Washington waiting for Russia's reaction to its written responses — ambassador

The US response contains a call for the de-escalation of the current situation, John Sullivan noted Read more »

Germany expels Russia diplomat on suspicion of spying — Spiegel

He allegedly worked for special services under the cover of a diplomatic status, the magazine reports Read more »

England's COVID R number drops again - UKHSA

LONDON – The estimated range of England’s COVID-19 reproduction “R” number has fallen to between 0.7 and 0.9, the UK Health Security Agency said on Friday, adding that the number ... Read more »

Exclusive-EU eyes lower bar to force foreign banks to become subsidiaries

LONDON – The European Union is considering “automatic triggers” that would force branches of foreign banks to become subsidiaries and hold more capital, an EU document showed. The EU is ... Read more »

'Bloody Sunday' still scars Northern Ireland 50 years on

By Clodagh Kilcoyne LONDONDERRY – Five decades after British soldiers killed 13 unarmed Catholic civil rights marchers on one of the defining days of the Northern Ireland conflict, relatives are ... Read more »

Three rockets hit Baghdad's airport and adjacent military base

At least three rockets hit Baghdad’s international airport and an adjacent military base that hosts US and other coalition advisors on Friday, damaging an abandoned commercial plane but causing no ... Read more »

Kazakh president is elected chairman of ruling Nur Otan party

Changes to the party’s founding charter and its political council are also to be considered Read more »

Vatican has signed contract to sell London building at core of corruption trial

VATICANCITY – The Vatican has signed a contract to sell a luxury building in London which is at the heart of an ongoing corruption trial, the Holy See’s economy minister ... Read more »

Rescue operation underway to save stranded whale in waters near Athens

A rescue operation was underway in a seaside part of the Greek capital Athens to save a young whale stranded in shallow water, said ARION, a veterinary care organisation that ... Read more »

US responses to Russia contain counter-proposals on arms control — US ambassador

According to John Sullivan, these responses contain proposals in the spheres where the US and Russia can find a common language to improve the situation in European security Read more »

UK PM committed to introducing healthcare levy in April - spokesman

LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his finance minister are fully committed to introducing the health and social care levy in April, his spokesman said on Friday, denying ... Read more »

UK lawmakers back appointment of new audit watchdog chair du Plessis

LONDON – British lawmakers have endorsed the appointment of former BT Group chairman Jan du Plessis as the new chair of the Financial Reporting Council, which regulates auditing and corporate ... Read more »

Scientists want Britain to back COVID patent waivers

– Scientists on Friday called on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to support the waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments in the wake of the ... Read more »

Death toll from Storm Ana rises to 86 as another storm brews to Africa's east

JOHANNESBURG – Tropical Storm Ana has killed at least 86 people across southern and eastern Africa, with recovery operations still ongoing as another storm threatened more severe weather. Storm Ana ... Read more »

China says UN rights chief welcome in Xinjiang but not for investigation

BEIJING – China’s foreign ministry said the United Nations human rights chief is welcome to visit Xinjiang but not for the purpose of an investigation, when asked about a report ... Read more »

Pivotal day for UK tech tycoon Lynch after decade-long battle with HP

LONDON – A multibillion-dollar court showdown between Mike Lynch, Britain’s leading technology entrepreneur, and Hewlett-Packard (HP) will come to a head on Friday, just as Britain decides whether or not ... Read more »

Germany charges Russian citizen suspected of space tech espionage

By Thomas Escritt BERLIN -Germany last year arrested and charged a Russian citizen with spying for Russia, prosecutors said on Thursday, alleging he had passed information on Europe’s Ariane space ... Read more »

Canada's Trudeau in isolation after COVID exposure; says test negative

OTTAWA – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday he had gone into isolation for five days after being exposed to someone with COVID-19, adding a rapid test result ... Read more »

Australia suffers deadliest day of pandemic, expands booster eligibility

SYDNEY – Australia suffered its deadliest day of the COVID-19 pandemic on Friday with nearly 100 deaths, but several large states said they expect hospital admissions to fall amid hopes ... Read more »

Ukraine crisis: Belarus 'will fight alongside Russia' if Putin goes to war, says Lukashenko

Belarus will fight alongside Russia if Moscow invades Ukraine, Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday, even as Russia’s top diplomat said that the Kremlin had no intention of going to war. ... Read more »

U.S. judge revokes 80 million acre Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leases

LOSANGELES – A U.S. judge on Thursday revoked 80 million acres of Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leases for underestimating the climate impact and risks, Earthjustice, which filed the ... Read more »

N.Korea confirms latest weapons tests as Kim visits key munitions factory

By Hyonhee Shin SEOUL -North Korea conducted tests of an upgraded long-range cruise missile and a warhead of a tactical guided missile this week, as leader Kim Jong Un visited ... Read more »

Lukashenko says it's important for West to ‘drown Russian-Ukrainian brotherhood in blood'

Alexander Lukashenko said he thought Western countries will persist in disrupting the situation in former Soviet countries to weaken Russia Read more »

Ukraine's president welcomes talks with Russia as path to peace: statement

KYIV – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomed four-way talks with Russia, France and Germany as meaningful and a step towards peace, a statement by his office said on Thursday. “The ... Read more »

Russian official says missile crisis unavoidable without arms curbs

MOSCOW – Russia said on Thursday that a nuclear missile crisis between Moscow and Washington was unavoidable without measures to ensure restraint and predictability, the TASS news agency reported. The ... Read more »

Iran's state broadcaster says it was hacked for 10 seconds

DUBAI – Iran’s state broadcaster IRIB was hacked for 10 seconds on Thursday, state media reported, as the country prepares to mark the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution. “During ... Read more »

Armenian foreign minister to visit Turkey after decades of animosity

ANKARA – Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan is to visit Turkey in March, his Turkish counterpart said on Thursday, as the neighbours work to mend ties after decades of animosity. ... Read more »

If war breaks out, everyone will lose, Belarusian president says

Alexander Lukashenko stressed that Belarus had never created problems for its neighbors and other nations "and will never create any" Read more »

U.S. urges China to use influence with Moscow over Ukraine

By Gabriel Crossley, David Brunnstrom and Michael Martina BEIJING/WASHINGTON – The United States on Thursday called on China to use its influence with Russia to urge a diplomatic solution to ... Read more »

Italy's parties duck fourth presidential vote, seek way out of impasse

By Angelo Amante and Crispian Balmer ROME -A fourth round of voting to elect a new Italian president headed for failure on Thursday after the main political blocs decided not ... Read more »

Hong Kong to cut quarantine for arrivals to 14 days from next month

(Refiles to fix typo in paragragh 4) By Farah Master and Twinnie Siu HONGKONG -Hong Kong will cut quarantine for arriving travellers to 14 days from 21 starting Feb. 5, ... Read more »

Korean Peninsula may once again become ground zero of dangerous events — senior diplomat

The time for empty declaration has passed, concrete solutions are needed, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov noted Read more »

Ukrainian airspace regularly patrolled by US, UK spy planes, LPR says

It was noted that the activity of Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles has decreased Read more »

German daily COVID cases rise above 200,000, causing staff shortages

BERLIN -The number of new COVID-19 infections in Germany exceeded 200,000 in a day for the first time on Thursday, hitting staffing at companies including Lufthansa Cargo. The Robert Koch ... Read more »

Jordan says 27 drug smugglers killed at border with Syria

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi AMMAN -Jordanian soldiers killed 27 armed smugglers on Thursday as they tried to cross the border from Syria during a dawn snowstorm with a large quantity of ... Read more »

France investigates possible second blast at Dakar rally in Saudi - French radio

By Tassilo Hummel and Ingrid Melander PARIS – French authorities are looking into what was potentially a second suspicious explosion at the Dakar sports car rally in Saudi Arabia last ... Read more »

Envoy Antonov calls US claims of ‘repressions' in Chechnya meddling in Russia's affairs

It is a part of a blatant information campaign against Russia, the Russian Ambassador to the US stressed Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic