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    Coronavirus: infection rate is spiking in Antwerp

    © Belga

    The infection rate in the city of Antwerp is increasingly rising and inching towards a point where every person infected with Covid-19 passes the bug on to two other people.

    Epidemiologist Pierre Van Damme on Thursday said that the basic reproduction number, or r-number, in the Flemish city was sliding towards 2, as the overall number in Belgium lingers around 1.5.

    The r-number measures the rate at which the virus spreads within a population. An r-rate of 2 in Antwerp means that every infected person creates two new cases.

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    “It’s going really not well with the numbers,” Van Damme said in a televised interview on Terzake. “We have seen the figures from Monday: 370.”

    Van Damme’s comments come as infection indicators in Belgium continue climbing, with officials on Thursday reporting a 91% increase of infections over a 7-day period in comparison to last week.

    “One generation is contaminating the other, one neighbourhood is infecting another,” Van Damme said, criticising the federal government for failing to order the shrinking of social bubbles.

    In the interview, conducted in the presence of Federal Interior Minister Pieter De Crem, Van Damme said that the National Security Council should have slashed social bubble allowances down to ten fixed people.

    “For God’s sake, limit your contacts,” Van Damme said. “Stay away from others as much as possible, except for some few people.”

    Current social contact rules allow residents in Belgium to meet with up to 15 people which can change every week.

    De Crem defended the NSC’s decisions to not further limit the social bubble rules, saying a “strong signal” had been sent by the government’s decision to not allow the planned relaxations to continue.

    “A bubble of 15 people has support [among residents], people keep up with that,” De Crem said, adding that, in comparison to other countries, Belgium’s social rules were “very strict.”

    Van Damme’s comments echo statements from the governor of the Antwerp province, who in a radio interview on Friday urged people to drastically reduce their social contacts, down from 15 to two people.

    In the interview, Van Damme also cast doubt on the pertinency of local lockdowns in Belgium, a measure adopted by other countries to contain emerging clusters.

    “Even a local lockdown is no longer useful, because it is spreading very quickly on the Belgian territory,” he said.

    Gabriela Galindo
    The Brussels Times