Nursing home residents so far account for nearly half of Belgium's total coronavirus deaths, according to health authorities' latest situation report.
Health officials said that the country' coronavirus death toll stood at 3,019 on Friday, after the number of deaths in the past 24 hours jumped to 325, the highest number since Monday.
The death toll reported on Friday surged to 496 new reported deaths as officials said 171 deaths that took place "in the preceding weeks" were only now being added to the country's total death count.
Out of the total number of deaths in Belgium, close to half (1,198) concern nursing home residents, according to the latest version of a daily epidemiological report by federal public health institute Sciensano.
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"40% of the deaths reported so far concern nursing homes or residential care centres and it concerns, mostly, people who did not have access to a lab test but who are treated as suspected coronavirus deaths," Emmanuel André of the government’s coronavirus advisory team said in the press conference.
According to the figures, the coronavirus pandemic has taken the hardest toll on Flemish nursing homes, with 666 of the total 1,198 deaths reported so far recorded in the northern region.
Wallonia reported 384 deaths of nursing home residents while the Brussels-Capital Region accounts for 148 deaths out of the total.
Echoing André, Joris Moonens, spokesperson for the Flemish Agency for Care and Health said that Flanders' confirmed nursing home death count included both tested and untested patients.
"In nursing homes, a majority of people today are not being tested for Covid-19, so the death count also includes persons who died with the symptoms," he told The Brussels Times.
Moonens said that health authorities in Flanders had recently received around 11,000 new testing kits out of a total of 20,000 made available by federal authorities to ramp up testing in nursing homes across the country.
Despite the influx of new tests, the agency has said that there are still not enough to test everyone, with Moonens saying that only a limited number were being fully tested, including all residents but also all staff.
On Wednesday, Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beke came under fire for rolling out an emergency plan to fight back spiking rates of contagion and deaths in the region's nursing homes, which critics said came too late.
The Brussels Times