The number of people that have been found to have the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus variant designated VOC 202012/01 (the UK variant) has risen from 11 to nearly 50 individuals.
Two more infections with this variant were detected during standard pathogen surveillance conducted by means of laboratory test sampling, in addition to the four cases reported previously: in the Amsterdam region and in the Leeuwarden region. The two people that were found to have the VOC 202012/01 coronavirus variant had no link to the United Kingdom. In the course of source and contact tracing, two more people were identified who had been infected with this variant. The new variant was found in another six people who had recently been to the UK, located in various places across the Netherlands. The variant was also found in six people who were in a cluster of infections in the Amsterdam region and in about 30 people in the Rotterdam-Rijnmond region, mostly linked to an outbreak at a primary school in this region. Based on these findings, the variant seems to be spreading mainly in the regions of Amsterdam and Rotterdam-Rijnmond.
Variant is more contagious, course of illness is the same
The variant seems to be more contagious, but so far there is no reason to assume that the course of illness will be different or more severe than the variant currently most commonly found in the Netherlands.
Further investigation by Municipal Public Health Services
If an infection with the UK coronavirus variant is found, the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs) will launch source and contact tracing.
Investigation by GGD Rotterdam and Erasmus MC
After an outbreak at an elementary school where an infection with the UK coronavirus variant was detected at the end of December, Erasmus MC and GGD Rotterdam-Rijnmond launched a large-scale outbreak investigation. The initial results and other information about this investigation can be found (in Dutch) on the GGD Rotterdam-Rijnmond website.
About pathogen surveillance
The Netherlands continuously monitors what variants of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 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 national surveillance programme involving a joint effort by 21 laboratories in the Netherlands: the pathogen surveillance. The laboratories regularly send a random sampling of the test samples to RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment 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 350-500 samples are analysed every week in the Netherlands. If there is reason to do so, there are options to expand this research.
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. Follow the basic hygiene measures, get tested as soon as possible if you develop (mild) symptoms, and comply fully with the isolation and quarantine measures.