As the rate of new coronavirus infections continues to rise in Belgium, health officials said the country still had time to ward off a full-blown second wave of the pandemic.
“We are not going through a second wave, let us be clear,” Frédérique Jacobs, Francophone spokesperson for Belgium’s Crisis Centre said in an interview with RTL Info. “We are seeing a rise in the number of people who test positive [for the new coronavirus].”
Jabos sought to nuance statements from Steven Van Gucht, a virologist and the Dutch-speaking spokesperson for federal health institute Sciensano, who had previously said that Belgium was already going through a new wave of the pandemic.
“We are witnessing a rise in the number of new cases and, if we do nothing, we will head straight into a second wave,” she said. “We may be at the beginning of a new wave, but for now the numbers are not so high, even if they are worrying, and if we do nothing we will obviously head into a new wave.”
Jacobs said that the shift in Belgium’s testing strategy also meant that the current surge in cases could not entirely be compared with the first wave of the pandemic first hit in the spring.
“When we were at the height of the epidemic in March and April, we had around 2,300, maximum 2,600 new positive cases each day — now we are at 500,” she said, adding that, in the current phase, different kinds of people were being tested and diagnosed with the virus.
“It’s not the same people, the first time we tested only infected people whose symptoms were severe enough to warrant a hospitalisation — we were not detecting the people who were not as sick, the asymptomatic cases…”
“Now we are detecting people who have even the slightest symptoms, obviously all the contacts of the people who have tested positive, and all the people who are travelling to or returning from high-risk destinations, red or orange, even if they have no symptoms — so we are not following the same testing strategy.”
In the current resurgence of the virus, which has seen the Antwerp province emerge as a hotbed of new clusters and cases, Jacobs said that younger people were being diagnosed with Covid-19.
“We have not seen a lot of hospitalisations because, so far, the virus is being detected mainly among young people,” she said, adding that new figures suggested that the virus was progressively beginning to spread into older age groups.
While the number of hospitalisations remained low for now, a slight rise in the figures could spell the kind of trouble that officials are hoping to avoid this time around.
“Hospitalisations are rising slowly, but surely,” she said, adding that admissions concerned riskier cases, such as people who developed more severe symptoms, older people or people with preexisting health conditions.