The spread in the Netherlands of a new Covid strain which has been rampant in parts of the United Kingdom is only a matter of time, public health institute RIVM has said.
The new virus has now been found twice in the Amsterdam region but no connection with the UK was found in either case. That lack of a direct link, the RIVM said, is probably proof of a much wider circulation of the virus in this county.
‘It’s a question of days before the new strain starts turning up in the random tests conducted in the various regions,’ head virologist Chantal Reusken told broadcaster NOS.
There are no signs as yet that the new variant is more damaging but it is, however, much more contagious. Nevertheless, the sharp increase in coronavirus infections of the last weeks is unlikely to have been caused by the introduction of the new strain, Reuskens said.
Health boards will now include a possible link with the UK in their test and trace procedures. Tests for the strain will also be conducted where big outbreaks are reported. ‘The search for the British strain will be given priority in these cases,’ Reusken said.
Leiden teaching hospital LUMC epidemiologist Frits Rosendaal stressed that the arrival of the strain means people must be strict about keeping to the existing control measures.
‘With this strain it will take longer before the pandemic is under control. More people will have to keep to the rules because, apart from that, all we have left is a curfew.’ Rosendaal said.
The ban on travel from the UK has now been lifted. From December 29 all travellers to the Netherlands will have to show proof of a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours before they are allowed into the country and observe a further 10 day quarantine.
Meanwhile another highly infectious strain has turned up in the UK, introduced by travellers from South Africa. This strain has not yet been found in the Netherlands. The vaccines currently being prepared for roll out are expected to combat both new variants.