Britain finds 55 more cases of India coronavirus variant, Belgium also affected

People swab themselves for Covid-19 at a testing site in London.
People swab themselves for Covid-19 at a testing site in London.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Britain found 55 more cases of the B.1.617 coronavirus variant first detected in India in latest weekly figures, Public Health England said on Thursday (April 22), with India set to be added on the travel red list from Friday morning.

A total of 132 confirmed and probable cases of the B.1.617 variant have now been found in Britain.

Health minister Matt Hancock on Monday announced India would be added to the red-list, meaning arrivals will have to quarantine in hotels.

There were 70 more cases of the variant first found in South Africa, known as B.1.351, in the week running to April 21, PHE said.

Separately on Thursday, Belgium authorities found the variant in a group of Indian students who had arrived from Paris.

Twenty nursing students, who arrived in Belgium in mid-April after travelling from the French capital’s Charles de Gaulle airport, have tested positive for the variant, the office of government commissioner Pedro Facon told AFP, confirming media reports.

The students have been placed in quarantine in Aalst and Leuven in northern Belgium where they had been due to begin a training course.

Several experts have suggested they may have been victims of a “super-spreader” – either a member of their group, or another passenger on the bus that brought them to Belgium from Paris.

“These students have been respecting strict isolation since their arrival. Twenty of the 43 students are as of today infected by the ‘Indian’ variant,” tweeted microbiologist Emmanuel Andre of the Catholic University of Leuven.

Virologist Marc Van Ranst, another expert who has been prominent in Belgian coverage of the crisis, told a Flemish radio station that the group had landed in Paris on April 12.

Several of the students began having virus symptoms five days later, he said.

The B.1.617 variant has already appeared elsewhere, including in the United States, Australia, Israel and Singapore.

Concern about it has led some countries, including Britain, to slap travel restrictions on India.