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Belgian lab chief: 1 in 10 coronavirus cases now Omicron

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Cases of the highly-contagious Omicron variant are growing in Belgium and now account for one in ten of all new coronavirus cases in the country, said the researcher in charge of Belgium’s reference laboratory for COVID on Twitter Friday night.

In an example of how quickly the variant is spreading, testing data from Thursday suggested that Omicron accounted for 6 percent of cases, according to the same scientist, microbiologist Emmanuel André.

This suggests that the variant is now established in the country, with new cases being driven by community transmission and not just arrivals from elsewhere.

The variant is currently spreading throughout Europe. The U.K., the current hotspot for the newly-emerged strain, reported more than 93,000 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, with government officials considering lockdowns to contain its spread.

The World Health Organization said today that the evidence pointed to Omicron having a “substantial growth advantage” over the Delta variant that has been dominant up until now. In countries with community transmission, cases double every 1.5 to 3 days, the health authority said.

The EU’s disease control agency forecasts that Omicron — which is able to largely side-step immunity granted by a normal course of vaccination — will become the dominant variant in the EU and the European Economic Area in January or February.

France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex warned on Friday that the variant was spreading at “lighting speed.” The country announced incoming measures that would strengthen controls of vaccination certificates.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium policy service: Pro Health Care. From drug pricing, EMA, vaccines, pharma and more, our specialized journalists keep you on top of the topics driving the health care policy agenda. Email [email protected] for a complimentary trial. 

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