Coronavirus: ‘without measures, the curve rises straight up’
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    Coronavirus: ‘without measures, the curve rises straight up’

    The graph was drawn up by the team of biostatistician Niel Hens, a researcher at the University of Hasselt and part of the Group of Experts for the Exit Strategy (GEES). Credit: FPS Public Health/Twitter

    A graph of two scenarios that Belgium has avoided in the fight against the new coronavirus (Covid-19) by implementing and extending far-reaching measures was shared by the Federal Public Health Service on Monday.

    “It is important to minimise the circulation of the coronavirus as much as possible before we can let go of a number of measures,” said inter-federal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht on Monday during the daily press briefing.

    To illustrate what would have happened if the measures had not been implemented, or had been relaxed too quickly, a graph illustrating two different scenarios was shown.

    The graph was drawn up by the team of biostatistician Niel Hens, a researcher at the University of Hasselt and part of the Group of Experts for the Exit Strategy (GEES) for the relaxation of shutdown measures. The blue lines represent predictions of the number of hospital admissions, the dots show the number of real observations.

    Translation: “The graph shows the scenarios of the spread of #Covid19 from which we escaped. We flattened the curve thanks to your efforts. Thank you!”

    At the bottom, the course of the flattened curve is visible. The two steep peaks indicate what would “very probably” have happened if (1) the strict measures had not been implemented on 14 March, or (2) the measures had been released overnight on 16 April, the day after the National Security Council had decided to extend them until at least 3 May.

    “In the first scenario, the curve immediately rises straight up, and shows that the number of cases that Belgium would have had if we had not taken any measures, which results in a very probably overload of our health care system,” said Van Gucht. “The second scenario again shows an exponential increase in the number of cases, which also would have resulted in an overload of our health care system, but later in time,” he added.

    “This graph shows why it is so important not to let go of the measures too soon,” said Van Gucht. “To keep the curve as flat as possible, we need to keep the virus circulation as small as possible. Then we can release a number of measures with more guarantee and more ease,” he said.

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    Vigilance will remain important, according to Van Gucht. “That can be done by testing, by detecting contacts, by isolating and by maintaining a number of rules about distance,” he added.

    “The figures are encouraging, but let them not be a signal to start loosening our behaviour towards the measures. The curve has to go down further. We have to persevere,” said the National Crisis Centre.

    On Monday, Belgium reported a total number of 39,983 confirmed coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic, which reflects all people in Belgium who have been infected at some point, and includes confirmed active cases as well as patients who have since recovered, or died from the consequences of the virus.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times