Belgium has detected the first case of the new coronavirus variant which was first found in South Africa, a virologist said on Friday.
Health minister Frank Vandenbroucke told a news conference that a case of variant B.1.1.529 had been found in an unvaccinated person who had developed symptoms and tested positive on November 22nd.
"It is a suspicious variant. We do not know if it is a very dangerous variant," he said.
Belgium's national reference laboratory said the infected person was a young adult woman who had developed symptoms 11 days after returning from a trip to Egypt via Turkey. She had flu-like symptoms, but no signs to date of severe disease.
None of her household members developed symptoms, but were being tested.
The new coronavirus variant, first detected in South Africa, has caused global alarm, with the EU and Britain among those tightening border controls as researchers seek to find out if the mutation is vaccine-resistant.
Hours after Britain banned flights from South Africa and neighbouring countries and asked travellers returning from there to quarantine, the World Health Organisation cautioned against hasty measures.
Britain said the variant was of huge concern, and considered by scientists to be the most significant one yet found as it could make vaccines less effective.
In Ireland, the Department of Foreign Affairs has updated its travel guidance and is now advising people to “avoid all non-essential travel” to South Africa. There are no direct flights from South Africa to Ireland.
BioNTech, the inventor of the western world's most widely used Covid-19 vaccine, said it expects more laboratory data on the variant within two weeks to help determine whether the biotech firm's shot would have to be reworked.
South Africa said the British ban on flights from six southern African countries seemed rushed, as European authorities prepared similar moves.
Israel has imposed a travel ban covering most of Africa.
Top US infectious disease official Dr Anthony Fauci said that a ban on flights from southern Africa was a possibility and the United States was rushing to gather data on the new variant.