Brussels races to keep hospitals from collapse as Covid-19 cases surge

Brussels races to keep hospitals from collapse as Covid-19 cases surge

As a steady rise in new coronavirus cases in Brussels puts the squeeze on regional hospitals, a drastic tightening of measures on Wednesday aims to keep non-Covid-19 care from collapsing.

The capital region's hospital network has seen a steady rise in new hospitalisations of coronavirus patients which set off alarms among officials as intensive care units (ICU) fill up.

"Brussels' hospital network is under tension, we know today that the baseline capacities in the ICU have been reached," minister-president of the Brussels-Capital Region, Rudi Vervoort, said in a press conference on Wednesday.

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All ICU units of Brussels hospitals have now reached 15% of their capacity while, in two, the unit is 25% full, regional officials said, as they ordered all bars in the capital to shut down completely for one month.

"This once again hikes the pressure on health care personnel and endangers care capacities for [non-coronavirus] patients," a press release said.

Brussels hospitals had already begun transferring Covid-19 patients to hospitals in nearby cities near and around the capital, such as Aalst, where the mayor called for a slowdown of transfers to ensure local hospitals had enough room for residents of the Flemish city.

"If the situation continues to worsen, there will come a time where the entire health care system will collapse," Vervoort said on Wednesday.

While Vervoort conceded that, in terms of figures, the situation was not comparable to the first wave, which struck the country between March and June, he said the "main challenge" was to ensure health care systems do not overflow.

"We can think it is less serious than in March because there are fewer deaths and fewer hospitalisations —even if numbers are rising— but, if we do nothing, it will explode."

Vervoort's statements come after the federal government also imposed stricter measures on social contacts and imposed a curfew on all bars and cafés in the country, in measures also set to last for at least a month.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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