'Unlikely' that Belgium will lift lockdown on 5 April, government virologist says

'Unlikely' that Belgium will lift lockdown on 5 April, government virologist says
Lockdown measures imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic may remain in place beyond the current deadline, a government virologist said. Credit: Jules Johnston/ The Brussels Times

It is unlikely that lockdown measures imposed in Belgium to fight the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic will be lifted on the current deadline, government officials said.

Upending daily life in Belgium and forcing schools and many businesses to temporarily close in efforts to slow down the spread of the virus, the measures are currently set to remain in place until Sunday 5 April.

While Steven Van Gucht, a leading virologist with the government's coronavirus advisory team, said that the lockdown measures are working, officials are still unable to say whether the outbreak has already peaked in Belgium.

"We cannot make predictions about the peak and we cannot say whether we are experiencing it now, we have to wait for a successive decrease in the number of infections and deaths," Van Gucht said in a press conference at the weekend.

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"In that sense, it seems unlikely that we will be able to lift all measures on 5 April," he added. "The guidelines that we follow and issue will depend on the statistics we are monitoring day by day."

Van Gucht's statements came as he announced the number of confirmed cases reached 2,815 on Saturday before jumping to 3,401 in the latest update on Sunday.

"We have seen a further and stronger increase in the numbers in the past 24 hours," Van Gucht said, adding: "If the measures that are now in force had not been taken, the figures would be even higher."

Hospitalisations also continued to rise over the weekend, with over 1,300 coronavirus patients admitted to a hospital over the weekend and with the number of patients placed in an intensive care unit (ICU) jumping to 290.

Van Gucht said that hospitals were still operating below capacity, with less than a third of ICU beds occupied as of Saturday, and with an additional 795 added on Sunday.

The number of deaths due to the new coronavirus (Covid-19) over the weekend pushed Belgium's death toll from 65 on Saturday to 75 as of Sunday, with Van Gucht saying that a majority of the deceased on Saturday were over the age of 65.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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