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The COVID-19 variant, which is helping to increase coronavirus cases in India, was discovered in Belgium in a group of Indian students who had traveled from Paris, the Belgian authorities said on Thursday.

Twenty nursing students who came to Belgium in mid-April after a trip from Charles de Gaulle airport in the French capital have tested positive for the variant, the office of government commissioner Pedro Facon told AFP and confirmed media reports.

The students were quarantined in Aalst and Leuven in northern Belgium, where they were supposed to start a training course.

Several experts have suggested that they may have been the victims of a “super-spreader” – either a member of their group or another passenger on the bus that brought them from Paris to Belgium.

“These students have respected the strict isolation since their arrival. Twenty of the 43 students are still infected by the ‘Indian’ variant,” tweeted the microbiologist Emmanuel Andre from the Catholic University of Leuven.

Virologist Marc Van Ranst, another expert who played a prominent role in Belgian coverage of the crisis, told a Flemish radio station that the group landed in Paris on April 12th. Several of the students had viral symptoms five days later.

Variant B.1.617 has already appeared elsewhere, including in the USA, Australia, Israel and Singapore. Concerns about this have led some countries, including the UK, to impose travel restrictions on India.

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