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


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.

You could say that this is Covid-21 instead of Covid-19: it is three times more infectious than the original virus.

De Croo was speaking as Belgian scientists investigated two samples of Covid-19 which were believed to be 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. The patient had returned from Egypt on Monday.  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. The variant is known to have 32 mutations to the spike protein, which could allow the pathogen to evade vaccine-induced immunity. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has described the variant as “the worst one we’ve seen so far.” 

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