The appearance of a new variant of Covid-19, of Congolese origin in Belgium, is fuelling doubt and controversy in the public opinion.
The discovery of a new form of Covid-19, of Congolese origin, in the Liège region of Belgium is fuelling doubt. « It is difficult to attribute the origin of this variant to the DRC, » said Health Minister Eteni Longondo in a statement. According to data from the Global Initiative on Sharign Avian Influenza Data (GISAID), an international platform containing more than 800,000 sequences enabling the evolution of the pandemic to be discovered, the B.1.214 virus strain of Congolese origin has been identified in Africa since April 2020. Its contamination rate in Belgium is 4%, according to health sources in that country.
A discovery war between Belgian and German researchers?
In Belgium, the discovery of this new variant is attributed to researchers from the University of Liege (ULiege), while other German researchers indicate that they were the first to discover this new variant. « It was our researcher Keith Durkin who identified the variant as part of the national genomic surveillance programme for the virus, which was launched at the end of December in our country, » Vincent Bours, professor of human genetics and head of the Sars-Cov-2 virus analysis and sequencing laboratory at the University of Liège, explained to our colleagues in the newspaper Le soir.
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In the wake of this, German researchers report that « it was we who confirmed the origin of this variant from samples collected in November and December in the Republic of Congo. The results have been communicated to the Nature group’s journal, Scientific Reports, » Professor Thirumalaisamy Valavan told Le Figaro.
« A disease that has been imported to us
In addition to this discovery war between German and Belgian researchers, this new variant of Congolese origin raises a doubt. How can a virus from China have a Congolese origin? For the Congolese Minister of Health, the Covid-19 virus did not start in the DRC, especially since most of the cases of the pandemic diagnosed were imported.
« The fact that this variant was detected in our country does not mean that it has a Congolese origin (…) It is difficult to attribute the origin of this variant to the DRC. The Covid-19 pandemic is a disease that has been imported to us (…) We remain dubious as to its origin, which may be linked to the Covid-19 epidemics that occurred in the countries of residence of the first patients who travelled to the DRC in March and April 2020, » the press release states.
While waiting for further details from scientists on this new variant of Congolese origin, the least we can say is that its authorship in the DRC is fuelling doubt in the strongholds of several observers, because, according to them, most of the Covid-19 cases were imported.