British corona variant threatens to make problems for hospitals even greater

Concerns in the Netherlands about the British variant of the coronavirus are increasing. The variant appears more contagious, says virologist Marion Koopmans (Erasmus MC) who is involved in the research on the spread of the variant in the Netherlands. โ€œAccording to a new British study, people who found this variant had a significantly higher amount of virus in them and were therefore more contagious.โ€

And of course we are not waiting for that, says Koopmans. โ€œWe are already struggling to push covid-19 back to a manageable level. That threatens to become even harder than it already is.โ€

In England, the British variant has now gained the upper hand. The RIVM expects this to happen in the Netherlands as well. So far, 11 cases of infection with the British variant have been known in the Netherlands. But only a few hundred virus samples have been checked.

In order to further assess the spread in the Netherlands, 10,000 samples of recent positive corona-virus tests will be examined this week for the presence of the new variant.

School outbreak

Yesterday it became clear that the variant was found at a school in the Rotterdam region. It‘s about the Willibrordschool in Bergschenhoek. Teachers, pupils and parents are infected, says chairman Saskia Schenning of the school’s foundation.

Everyone involved in the school is asked to be tested in a specially equipped test street of the GGD. โ€œI assume that the team and parents are responding to the call of the GGD,โ€ says Schenning.

The outbreak at the school is being investigated by the GGD. โ€œForty people have been tested positive, of whom at least five have the British variant,โ€ says GGD doctor Ewout Fanoy. Of the others, that has yet to be determined. โ€œIt is plausible that most of those 40 people have the British variant.โ€ He suspects that more people in the area have also become infected, but have not yet reported to the GGD.

Schools open again?

Fanoy calls it striking that many young children fell ill at the school. โ€œThey are not seriously ill, but they have real complaints. It is still an assumption that the British variant is somewhat more contagious in children and also gives mild complaints a little more often.โ€

โ€œ Until now, we thought that children were not so involved with corona, but this could make the image overturn. For the children it is especially annoying, but not bad. It is very difficult for the question of what is happening with the opening of the schools.โ€

Exactly that is why research into what exactly happened at and around that school is so important, says Koopmans. โ€œSociety is very keen to have the schools open as soon as possible, but the question is whether that is sensible. We are trying to find out whether it is true that children in primary school are more contagious with this variant. That is very difficult to establish.โ€

Risk of dissemination: high

The ECDC, the dome of RIVM and its European sister organisations, today considers it plausible in an analysis that the British corona variant will spread throughout Europe. The variant is not considered to be more lethal, but because of the assumed higher contagiousness, the ECDC calls the risk of an increase in the number of hospitalizations and deaths high.

The variant has now emerged outside the UK in thirteen countries in Europe and ten countries outside the UK. The ECDC considers it important to investigate whether there is a new variant in the event of outbreaks. All non-essential trips to areas where the variant is more common are not recommended.