More coronavirus particles found in Dutch sewage; New variant emerging

After a quiet summer, the number of coronavirus infections is slowly increasing again. The highest number of virus particles since mid-May has been found in sewage water. Slightly more people are also ending up in the hospital due to coronavirus complaints. A new subvariant of the virus is emerging.

The numbers are still small, stressed the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). “What we’ve seen over the last month is an increase, but the level is still very, very low. It is now rising from very, very low to slightly less very, very low,” said Susan van den Hof, head of the Center of Epidemiology and Surveillance of Infectious Diseases of the RIVM. It is unclear what caused the slight increase, but the summer holidays may play a role. “Holidays always help with the spread of viruses,” said Van den Hof.

The number of virus particles in the sewage is rising faster than the number of hospital admissions. That indicates that most people can recover at home and have few or no symptoms from the coronavirus. Van den Hof: “We expect there will also be more spread in the autumn. We will also see a wave in the number of seriously ill, but not as high as in the years of the pandemic.” That’s because almost everyone has had the coronavirus, has been vaccinated against the virus, or both. People are well protected. Van den Hof, therefore, expects that no coronavirus restrictions will be necessary and that the healthcare system won’t get overloaded.

The new variant that is going around is called EG.5. It is an altered version of XBB, which has been dominant lately. The change will likely allow EG.5 to evade human defenses a bit better, allowing it to spread faster and more easily. There are no indications that people become sicker from EG.5 than from other virus variants. The coronavirus vaccine that will be used for the repeat injections this autumn has been specially developed for the XBB variants. That also includes EG.5.

According to the National Coordination Center for Patient Distribution (LCPS), about 75 people are currently in the hospital with the coronavirus. That is the highest number since early June. Almost all of them are in regular nursing wards.

Reporting by ANP

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