Belgium records Europe's first case of the new coronavirus variant spreading in southern Africa

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Belgium records Europe's first case of the new coronavirus variant spreading in southern Africa
A coronavirus vaccine vial.Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Belgium recorded its first case of the new coronavirus variant seen spreading in southern Africa, its health minister said Friday.

Frank Vandenbroucke announced that the B1.1.529 variant was found in an unvaccinated traveler who entered Belgium and tested positive on November 22, De Morgen reported.

"Caution is necessary, but don't panic," Vandenbroucke said, Het Laatste Nieuws reported.

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Previous cases had been restricted to South Africa, Botswana, and a single case in Hong Kong, which was imported by a traveler.

The origin of the variant is unclear, but it is spreading in South Africa. A chart shared by health officials there shows how, in less than two weeks, B.1.1.529 completely overtook the Delta and Beta variants that were present in one of the country's provinces.

The UK restricted flights from Botswana, South Africa, and four other southern African nations on Thursday.

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Germany and Belgium imposed flight bans from southern African countries on Friday, while the European Union is considering a bloc-wide ban.

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