A new increase in the number of people infected daily with the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Belgium is a cause for concern, according to virologist Steven Van Gucht, inter-federal spokesman on COVID-19.
From September 3 to 9, an average 636 new COVID-19 infections were registered daily, a 38% increase on the previous one-week period, according to the latest epidemiological update from the Sciensano public health institute, issued on Sunday.
“This trend is increasing,” Van Gucht said, also on Sunday. “An increase in figures is not a good sign, when they should have stabilised.”
Unlike the month of July, when infections spiked mainly in and around city centres, the new surge is all over the provinces. “In some, like West Flanders, the number of cases has doubled in the space of a week,” Van Gucht said.
The reproduction rate of the virus, which reflects how contagious it is, was estimated at 1.36 for the September 6-12 period. On Saturday it was still 1.27. When the reproduction rate is over 1, that means the pandemic is spreading. A rate of less than 1 means it is on the decrease.
The spike in infections comes against the background of the reopening of schools and the influx of people returning from trips to countries and regions coded red for COVID-19. However, the virus has also been spreading within families. “A certain amount of self-discipline is required,” Van Gucht said, stressing the importance of adhering to social distancing measures.
“This is not yet the time to soften the measures, some of which – like wearing masks and social distancing – should be reformulated,” he added.
The number of COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic some six months ago is now 92,478. Daily admissions to hospitals continue to go up, averaging 26.6 from September 6 to 12, a 58% increase. All told, 19,273 persons have been hospitalised for COVID-19 in Belgium.
According to Sciensano, 260 hospital beds were occupied on Saturday, 68 of them in intensive care units.
However, the number of deaths has been going down and now averages 2.6 per day, an 18% drop compared to the previous one-week period.
“This is good news. It means we are managing to protect high-risk groups,” Van Gucht commented, although he did not rule out a deterioration of the situation, as occurred in Spain.