'Fourth wave is already underway in Europe,' says Belgian expert

'Fourth wave is already underway in Europe,' says Belgian expert
Credit: Belga

Now that the number of coronavirus infections is rising sharply again in many European countries, a fourth wave is already happening, according to biostatistician Geert Molenberghs.

The infection figures in parts of Spain, Portugal, Cyprus and the United Kingdom are going up again, and especially the more infectious Delta coronavirus variant is worrying experts.

"The figures are rising in too many countries to say that this is not something we should be concerned about. The fourth wave of infections is already underway," he told Het Laatste Nieuws on Tuesday. "This is the start of a fourth wave, which hopefully will not get out of hand."

For Spain, specifically, there are no more green zones left, according to the latest update of Belgium's colour codes for countries, as most of the country colours orange, with even a few red zones. This week, at least eight young people returned to Belgium while infected with Covid-19, which they contracted at a party holiday in Lloret de Mar.

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Additionally, Portugal is being hit hard by the Delta coronavirus variant, with Belgian Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke advising people not to go there if they are not fully vaccinated, and to be extra careful if they are.

However, for the time being, Molenberghs does not expect this new wave of infections to result in extra hospitalisations, like in 2020 and spring 2021.

In Belgium, the increase in new cases is 52% compared to the previous seven-day period, according to Sciensano's daily figures. However, the number of tests also went up by 49%, as many people get tested before going on holiday.

Additionally, while the vaccination campaign is progressing fast, many people have not yet had their second shot, which they need to be fully protected against the virus and its variants.

"A lot of people are still waiting for a second shot," Molenberghs said. "About 35% of the population is currently fully vaccinated, which means that we still have two-thirds to go."

Many elderly people as well as those with underlying conditions have already been vaccinated, but a large part of especially that second group is still waiting for a second dose, according to him.

"For them, too, it is important that we do not let things get out of hand," Molenberghs stressed. "If the virus pressure becomes too great, we are going to see unpleasant things."

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