Dutch urged to take fast action on new coronavirus variant

Photo: Brandon Hartley
Photo: Brandon Hartley

The Dutch government is being urged to act quickly to head off the threat of a new variant of coronavirus arriving in the country from southern Africa.

The new variant, known as B.1.1.529, already has a hold in South Africa and cases have been found in Botswana and, via a traveller, in Hong Kong.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has said Brussels will propose ’activating the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region’ in close consultation with member states.

The Dutch government has not yet said if it will introduce a ban on flights or other travel from the continent, but Israel and Britain are among the countries to have already done so. Italy too has announced extra measures.

D66 parliamentarian Jan Paternotte has now urged the Dutch government to act quickly, saying it must heed the European Commission’s call.

‘You can travel here from South Africa on one fast test,’ he said on Twitter. ‘You need to head off a new variant quickly.’

The World Health Organization (WHO) is also meeting to determine if B.1.1.529 variant warrants a designation as one of ‘interest’ or of ‘concern’.

It was identified on Tuesday and stands out because it carries an ‘extremely high number’ of mutations.

‘The concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves,’ the WHO’s expert Dr Maria van Kerkhove said in a live stream.

Read the Guardian article on the new variant

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