‘This is Covid-21,’ Belgium PM declares as ‘Nu’ variant hits Europe — Analysis

Belgium’s prime minister has warned that the coronavirus facing the world today is very different from the one that appeared in Wuhan two years ago, claiming it is three times more contagious than the original strain.

Speaking on Friday, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told a press conference that the latest wave of coronavirus should be called Covid-21, as panic over the ‘Nu’ variant grips Europe.

One could call it Covid-21 and not Covid-19. This virus is three times as infectious as the original.

De Croo spoke as Belgian scientists examined two Covid-19 samples, which they believed were the new B.1.1.529. Shortly after De Croo’s comments, virologist Marc Van Ranst confirmed that one of the samples was the variant first found in Botswana. On Monday, the patient returned to Egypt.  

The strain, which is expected to be named after the Greek letter ‘Nu’, was first identified in samples taken in Botswana on November 11 and is believed to have spread widely across southern Africa. 

There are 32 known mutations in spike protein that could make the variant more resistant to vaccine-induced immune suppression. UK Health Security Agency has identified the variant as “the worst one we’ve seen so far.” 

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To stop the spreading of an even more deadly virus, the Belgian Prime Minister announced new Covid-19 measures. This includes the closing of dance halls and nightclubs for three weeks. Private parties are also prohibited. Hospitality and restaurants will close at 11pm. 

“We are trying to make sure that everyone can continue to see each other. We can still go out to bars or restaurants, there can still be activities, but it has to be done safely,” De Croo added. 

The highly contagious Delta variant has driven the fourth wave to date. It was first discovered in India. According to the prime minister, Belgium has not had as many infections in its history than it does now.

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