BRUSSELS – Belgium said Friday it has detected the first announced case in Europe of the new COVID-19 variant, in an unvaccinated person returning from abroad.
“We have a case that is now confirmed of this variant,” B.1.1.529, first detected in southern Africa, Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told a media conference.
The infected person tested positive on November 22 and had not had COVID-19 before, he added, without giving further details.
A leading Belgian virologist, Marc Van Ranst, tweeted that the person had returned from Egypt on November 11.
Vandebroucke said: “It must be repeated that this is a suspect variant — we don’t know if it is a very dangerous variant.”
He noted, however, that “as a precaution” Europe was stopping flights from southern Africa.
“So, total precaution but don’t panic,” he said, adding that Belgium’s COVID-19 risk assessment group was analysing the situation.