Mutated and highly-infectious COVID-19 strain likely circulating in Netherlands: RIVM

Attempts to stop the new coronavirus mutation found in the United Kingdom have not been successful, believe the RIVM. 

The Netherlands had already detected two cases of the more-contagious variant back in early-December. However, the country imposed stricter flight restrictions on countries where the variant has run rampant in an attempt to avoid the spread.

Chantal Reusken, chief virologist at the RIVM, told the NOS that “several signals” indicate that the mutated disease has probably already spread across the Netherlands. She believes the new variant will appear in Dutch test samples within the next few days.

Possibly more infections

“Evidence is piling up that this variant infects people more easily,” Reusken told the NOS. “It is expected that, just like in the United Kingdom, this variant will eventually become the dominant strain in the Netherlands.”

This is bad news for the country. The new variant is not thought to be more deadly, but the Netherlands is already under the pump dealing with the original strain of the virus.

READ MORE | Shocking jump in weekly infections across the Netherlands

Detected in December

In the previous two detections of the mutated strain in the Netherlands, the two infected people had not had contact with each other and were infected ten days apart. Neither had travelled or been in the UK. They were both from Amsterdam.

This data backs up Reusken’s theory that the mutated virus is already circulating in the Netherlands. “Amsterdam is a busy region, so it’s a bad sign that it has shown up there.”

However, she doesn’t think the strain has become dominant in the Netherlands yet. “Then we would have seen it more often.” Reusken believes that the quick increase in infections since last month isn’t due to the mutated virus.

The new dominant Dutch strain?

Evidence that this more-contagious variant could become dominant in the Netherlands is increasing. Frits Rosendaal, epidemiologist at the LUMC, told the NOS that a higher contagion rate could make it take longer for the Netherlands to get the pandemic under control.

READ NEXT | All plane passengers to the Netherlands must have negative COVID-19 test from Tuesday

“You will have to take the same measures that we are already taking, only more people will have to stick to it to reduce the number of infections,” he said. “What else can you do in the Netherlands? We only have a curfew left.”

RIVM virologist Reusken agrees. She doesn’t think any of the current measures will change. “If the variant is actually more contagious, you could say that the need to comply with the measures will only increase.”

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Feature Image: Artem Podrez/Pexels

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Samantha Dixon
Sam isn’t great at being Dutch. Originally hailing from Australia, she came to study in the Netherlands without knowing where the country was on a map. She once accidentally ordered the entire ice-cream menu at Smullers. She still can’t jump on the back of a moving bike. But, she remains fascinated by the tiny land of tall people.

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