Belgium in Brief: Peaking Deaths During Heat

Belgium in Brief: Peaking Deaths During Heat
Credit: Belga

With the heatwave giving way to rain, hail and thunderstorms across the country, the worst of it seems to be over, even if the weekend is still expected to become a hot one.

Not only did the high temperatures cause Belgium to break its own record for warmest week since the observations started, but they likely also caused a peak in the number of coronavirus deaths.

Over the past few weeks, Belgium has averaged two to three deaths a day, peaking at five. "This week, 11 coronavirus patients died on Monday, 13 on Tuesday, and at least nine on Wednesday," said virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht during a press conference on Friday.

About 75% of the deceased people were residents in a care home. "It is possible that the coronavirus, heat and increased ozone concentrations together contributed to the peak in deaths," said Van Gucht. "Elderly people quickly become victims of heat and ozone. But it is still too early to make conclusive statements about this."

In other news, half of the people in Brussels are tired of the coronavirus regulations and the pressure to go back to the workplace is increasing, despite government advice against it.

With that in mind, here are some of the top stories from around the country to get you up to speed.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your lunch break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:

1. Belgium breaks own record of warmest week in recorded history

With an average temperature of 33.5°C in the Uccle measurement station, Belgium has experienced the hottest week since the start of the measurements in 1833.

The new record was set between 6 and 12 August, with an average of 33.5°C, weather reporter and head of the Royal Meteorological Institute (RMI) David Dehenauw announced via Twitter on Thursday. Read More.

2. ‘Half of people without mask’: Brussels residents tired of coronavirus rules

Credit: Belga

Many people in Brussels are not complying with the obligatory face mask rule implemented yesterday, said Inge Neven, head of the health inspectorate, during a press conference on Thursday.

“This morning, about half of the people I saw were not wearing a face mask,” Neven said, adding that she is afraid that people are tired of complying with the rules.

On Wednesday, the obligation to wear a face mask in the entire Brussels-Capital Region went into force, as the average number of new coronavirus infections per day passed the alarm threshold of 50 per 100,000 inhabitants. Read more.

3. Belgium’s increase stabilises at average of 606 new coronavirus cases per day

An average of 605.7 people per day tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in Belgium during the past week, according to the latest figures by Sciensano on Friday.

The trend of new infections per day has risen by 9% over the 7-day period from 4 to 10 August. The number of new cases is still rising, but the increase is smaller than it was yesterday. Read More.

From the start of this week, a strong increase in the number of deaths has been noticed, which is “probably” partly due to the heat and high ozone concentrations. Read more about that here.

4. Pressure to go back to work increases despite teleworking advice

Credit: Belga

Since May, more people are systematically returning to their workplace, despite the government’s recommendations to continue to work from home if possible, the results of the 17th edition of the Great Corona Study by the University of Antwerp show.

This can be partly explained by the increasing pressure from managers and senior management, according to the researchers. Read more.

5. Government threatens financial penalties for labs over testing delays

The federal government is threatening to impose financial penalties on laboratories that drag their feet in returning the results of coronavirus tests, Belga reports.

As the number of cases is again rising, and the contact tracing system is still experiencing trouble getting off the ground, the government is worried that it is taking too long for people who were tested to be given their results. Read more.

6. France declares Paris coronavirus ‘red zone’ again

The French government has declared Paris and the Bouches-du-Rhône area, around Marseille at the Mediterranean, “red zones” with a high risk of coronavirus infections.

The decision was published in the country’s Official Journal on Friday, following a sharp increase in coronavirus infections over the last two weeks. Read more.

7. Man arrested after returning from red zone and going straight back to work

Belgian police have arrested an employee returning to work at his company in Haaltert, East Flanders, after returning home from a trip to a ‘red zoned’ country.

The man had not completed the designated form after returning from the red zone, and failed to go into mandatory quarantine.

“The man was immediately arrested and placed in quarantine,” Haaltert mayor Veerle Baeyens said on Thursday, being satisfied with the police handling. Read more.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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