Viruses: restrictions in the Benelux, questions about a South African variant – sciences et Avenir

The Netherlands and Belgium are expected to decide on new measures on Friday to curb rising coronavirus contamination in Europe, as a worrisome variant detected in South Africa has pushed the UK closer to six countries in Africa.

Europe again became the global epicenter of the pandemic this fall, while the highly contagious Delta variant reduced the effectiveness of vaccines against disease transmission to 40%, according to the WHO.

Covid-19 has killed more than 1.5 million people there, according to an AFP count drawn from official reports.

In total, the coronavirus has killed more than 5.16 million people worldwide since the end of 2019. WHO estimates that the number of victims of the pandemic could be two to three times higher.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran during a press conference on November 25, 2021 (POOL / AFP – Thomas COEX)

After the toughening announced in France and the crossing of the 100,000 deadline reached by Germany, its Dutch and Belgian neighbors are preparing to make decisions that are sometimes difficult to accept among the population, especially in the Netherlands.

At a press conference scheduled for Friday evening, Prime Minister Mark Rutte could announce the closure of bars and restaurants at 5:00 pm (1600 GMT), instead of 8:00 pm (7:00 pm GMT), local media reported.

However, this country has recently experienced several nights of unrest, especially in Rotterdam and The Hague, after the establishment of partial containment, with a series of sanitary restrictions. The government also plans to ban certain places for the unvaccinated, including bars and restaurants.

Citizens are already called upon not to house more than four people in their homes and to telework. Public demonstrations are prohibited and football matches are played behind closed doors. Despite these measures, the Netherlands, which has a population of 17 million, still registers more than 22,000 new cases per day.

– Superior to the most pessimistic curves –

In Belgium, the increase in pollution and hospitalizations linked to Covid is “higher than the most pessimistic curves” outlined last week by scientific experts, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo was alarmed on Thursday.

It will urgently meet the heads of the directors of the federative entities on Friday morning to decide on new measures.

Protesters against vaccines near Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, France, November 24, 2021 (AFP - Christophe ARCHAMBAULT)Protesters against vaccines near Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, France, November 24, 2021 (AFP – Christophe ARCHAMBAULT)

The daily rate of contamination broke a record in Belgium on Monday since the pandemic began in March 2020, with 23,621 new infections recorded by the Sciensano public health institute.

The curve is exponential from the plateau maintained throughout the summer until the beginning of October.

Mr De Croo also assured that the authorities intended to speed up vaccination and, in particular, the administration of the booster dose, which to date only 1.2 million Belgians have received. In addition, 75% of the general population received a first full vaccination.

– Border closures –

Europe is tightening its measures and border closures are resuming.

On Thursday night, the UK announced that it would bar entry to travelers from six African countries, after South Africa announced the discovery of a new variant: all flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana will be suspended. as of Friday at 12:00 GMT.

Variant B.1.1.529 shows an “extremely high” number of mutations and “we can see that it has the potential to spread very rapidly,” virologist Tulio de Oliveira said at an online press conference supervised by the Department of Health of South Africa.

A man undergoes a PCR test in Seoul on November 24, 2021 (AFP - ANTHONY WALLACE)A man undergoes a PCR test in Seoul on November 24, 2021 (AFP – ANTHONY WALLACE)

Metamorphoses of the initial virus can potentially make it more transmissible, to the point of making the variant dominant: this was the case with the Delta variant initially discovered in India, and which according to the World Health Organization (WHO) was reduced to 40%. the efficacy of anti-Covid vaccines against disease transmission.

At this point, South African scientists are unsure of the effectiveness of existing vaccines against the new form of the virus.

To date, 22 cases have been reported, mostly affecting young people, according to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD). Cases have also been reported in neighboring Botswana and Hong Kong, in a person returning from a trip to South Africa.

The WHO has declared to “follow closely” this new variant and must meet on Friday to determine its dangerousness.

Booster dose administered to hospital in Wuhan, China, on November 25, 2021 (AFP - STR)Booster dose administered to hospital in Wuhan, China, on November 25, 2021 (AFP – STR)

Already, “the number of detected cases and the percentage of positive tests are increasing rapidly,” the NICD said in a statement, particularly in the most populous province of Gauteng, which includes Pretoria and Johannesburg.

According to the scientists, the new variant B.1.1.529 has at least 10 mutations, compared to two in the Delta.

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