The UK variant of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has been found in 11 people in the Netherlands so far: 5 people in the Amsterdam region, 5 people in the Rotterdam region and 1 person in the Nijmegen region.
Last week, the UK virus variant was first identified in the Netherlands in three people in the Amsterdam region; it was detected during standard pathogen surveillance conducted by means of laboratory test sampling. These people had not been in England, nor had they been in contact with each other. Through source and contact tracing, another person was found in one of those people’s contacts who had not been in England, and proved to have previously been infected with the new UK virus variant. Last weekend, laboratory surveillance in the Amsterdam region found the virus variant in yet another person who was tested in the Amsterdam region but lives in the province of Flevoland. The Municipal Public Health Service (GGD) in Flevoland has launched source and contact tracing.
Late last week, the UK coronavirus variant was also found through laboratory surveillance in two people in the Rotterdam-Rijnmond region, who had also not been to England. Further investigation showed that these people could be linked to an outbreak at a primary school. That outbreak has been ongoing since the end of November. Further analysis of a number of available coronavirus samples from people associated with this school outbreak revealed three more cases that involved the UK virus variant. In order to map the extent of the spread, a sample of people who had recently tested positive for COVID-19 in the Rotterdam-Rijnmond region was screened using the method used in England to detect the variants; the screening sample consisted of approximately 250 people. More than 95% of those people did not have the variant. To supplement that screening, about 250 test samples have been requested from the same region, distributed across various laboratories.
Gelderland South region
Finally, the new UK variant was found in the Gelderland South region in 1 person who had recently returned from England.
About pathogen surveillance
The Netherlands continuously monitors what types of coronavirus are circulating and whether the virus is changing, based on random samples. The presence of the UK coronavirus variant in the Netherlands was established in a joint research programme in which RIVM and Erasmus University Medical Center collaborate with 21 laboratories in the Netherlands on pathogen surveillance. The laboratories regularly send a random sampling of the test samples to RIVM or Erasmus MC, where the genetic information of the virus is examined. This makes it possible to map which variants are occurring in different locations in the Netherlands, and whether there are any new variants. This is called sequence analysis. Right now, about 350 samples are analysed every week in the Netherlands. If there is reason to do so, there are options to expand this research.
Research on contagiousness in the Rotterdam region
Much is still uncertain about the UK variant of the coronavirus, including whether this virus type is more contagious than the other variants, and whether it causes more infections in children. The cluster at a school in the Rotterdam region offers an opportunity to obtain more information about these aspects. The Rotterdam-Rijnmond Municipal Health Service (GGD) and Erasmus MC are intensifying the ongoing outbreak investigation, expanding their efforts to include other contacts in the cluster, such as teachers, pupils and other household members.
The measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) in the Netherlands continue to be important, regardless of which variant it is. Stay at least 1.5 metres from others. Stay home as much as possible, and minimise the number of people you have contact with. Work from home. If you have (mild) symptoms, stay home and get tested as soon as possible. Wash your hands frequently, especially when you arrive somewhere from outside. In addition, comply fully with the isolation and quarantine measures.