If Belgium fails to halt the exponential rise in cases of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) the hospital sector fears severe shortages of materials to treat patients in a critical state.
"The number of [coronavirus] infections is increasing exponentially," Geert Meyfroidt, the head of Belgium's Association for Intensive Care Medicine, told De Morgen.
Meyfroidt's comments come after the number of confirmed cases of the virus rose to 556 on Friday, and echo warnings from Steven Van Gucht, of the government's coronavirus experts team, that Belgium was only at the start of the epidemic.
Belgian hospitals currently have 1,900 intensive care unit beds, putting the country among the EU's top five in terms of equipment availability, Meyfroidt said.
"We are always prepared for a mild flu season [and] very quickly we can switch to a serious flu season," in which, according to the outlet, up to 10% of the population falls ill.
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"But no one can withstand the coronavirus," Meyfroidt said, citing the example of Italy to warn: "If we cannot level the peak of the epidemic, based on what we saw in Italy, you can expect three-quarters of the population to fall ill."
Meyfroidt's estimations also come after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that up to 70% of the population in Germany could contract the new coronavirus.
"We know that 20% of people with symptoms end up in the hospital, and 5% end up in intensive care," Meyfroidt said. "That would mean that we would need 50,000 beds on intensive care — we could never handle that."
"Hopefully we will all succeed in slashing the peak in half, to half a million patients, or preferably to decimate it," he added.
On Thursday, the Belgian government moved to hike up the health system's capacity to handle the growing number of cases, ordering all general hospitals in Belgium to prepare to treat new or existing coronavirus patients, in a move which is set to reduce pressure on the two officially designated hospitals to treat infectious outbreaks, located in Brussels and Antwerp.
The Brussels Times