The federal health ministry is reporting 133 new cases of coronavirus (Covid-19) detected on Friday, the last day before the implementation of a set of measures designed to slow the spread of the disease.
The new cases bring the total of cases confirmed in Belgium up to 689, including four fatalities. There are 97 cases in hospital at present, including 24 in intensive care.
The majority of the new cases are in Flanders – 122 in all. Wallonia had six new cases, and Brussels five.
Yesterday, virologist Steven Van Gucht warned that the shutdown of schools, bars, restaurants, sporting events and concerts would not show immediate results.
"The effect of the measures we are taking now will only show itself in the number of cases in a week or two," he said, adding that the new numbers of today reflect people who were infected about a week ago.
"We need to avoid that our health care system will have to deal with an overload, by a peak that comes too fast," said Van Gucht. "If everyone follows these measures and cooperates, we can save lives," he added.
One more person has died of the infection, an 80-year-old patient who was suffering from pre-existing conditions. The patient is the fourth fatality, all of whom so far have been aged between 73 and 90.
Of those currently in intensive care, the ministry said, the majority are elderly people with existing conditions. Of the patients in ICU, 22 are being kept on a respirator. Although most are elderly, several are in their thirties and forties.
Yesterday's reported number of 160 new infections included seven residents of a nursing home in the Brussels commune of Watermael-Boitsfort, according to Sven Heyndrickx of Iriscare, the Brussels region’s health care agency.
The federal home affairs ministry has clarified one of the measures taken by the government as part of the shutdown.
Hairdressers and beauty salons were widely reported to be allowed to open all week. In fact they may only open to receive clients on weekdays, and then only by appointment. Like other non-essential commerces, they must close at weekends.
Weekend opening is restricted to pharmacies and shops selling food and pet food.
Earlier this morning, Turkey announced a ban on travellers from eight European countries, including Belgium. Belgians now in Turkey will be allowed to leave, and Turkish people are banned from travelling to the eight countries concerned: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden.
The Brussels Times