The new coronavirus (Covid-19) will continue to circulate in Belgium for several months before receding, Federal Health Minister Maggie De Block said.
"The virus will continue to spread through our country for around eight to nine more weeks, like in other countries," De Block said. "It will continue going around."
De Block's statements came after new, restrictive measures were implemented in Belgium as authorities scrambled to keep the virus from spreading further, after facing public criticism over previously implementing mostly non-enforceable measures.
The health minister referred to the cases of China or South Korea as a point of comparison regarding the evolution of the outbreak, which was on Wednesday characterised as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.
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Since it was declared in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of December, Chinese authorities this week said that they were now over the peak of the outbreak.
"We see it now in China, where it is starting to recede," De Block said, adding that the worrying factor was the speed with which the virus spread through the population.
It was necessary to take new measures "now," in order to avoid "dramatic situations" in our hospitals, De Block added, in comments that followed a government decision to urge all general hospitals in Belgium to prepare to treat existing or incoming patients.
De Block's statements come as the number of infected patients in Belgium nears 400 and the death toll stands at three, with a new count expected to be given in a daily press briefing at noon on Friday.
The Brussels Times