The average age of Coronavirus (COVID-19) patients admitted to hospital has dropped sharply, interfederal spokesman Yves Van Laethem said on Friday at the Crisis Centre’s latest press conference.
During the first wave of the virus, half of the patients had an average age of 71 years. Today, 50% are under the age of 50.
The Sciensano public health institute has compared the profiles of patients hospitalised in the first wave and those admitted to hospital between 23 June and 14 September, during the second surge in cases. Data for the period after 15 September was not yet available.
Sciensano noted that, during the first wave, one in four hospitalised patients came from retirement homes or retirement and assisted-living homes. That ratio has gone down a bit and is now 1 in 5.
During the summer spike in infections, 63% of patients had underlying conditions, down from 74% during the first wave. The percentage of people with cardiovascular problems or hypertension has gone down, Van Laethem said, “on the other hand, there is a slight increase in the number of people suffering from diabetes or obesity.”
People admitted to hospital are now less severely ill than in the spring. Hospitals’ “admission criteria are less strict than the criteria we had in March – April,” the virologist noted. Freedom of admission is, in fact, more important and there is much less pressure on the available hospital beds.
Fewer patients in intensive care are now being placed on respirators. People on the artificial breathing machines made up 9% of total COVID-19 patients in Spring, now they comprise 3%. The overall number of patients in intensive care has also gone down, from 14% to 11%.
However, the average length of time spent in hospital has not changed much. “It’s around seven days today, whereas it was eight days during the first wave,” Van Laethem said. “The number of deaths linked to hospitalisation has, fortunately, undergone a marked change.”
Nine percent of patients admitted to hospitals die. In March-April, the proportion was more than double, at 21%. The improvement is probably linked to the fact that patients are younger and have fewer underlying conditions, but it is also due to improved care and the experience developed in the first wave, the virologist explained.
Patients aged over 80 years died in 37% of cases after being admitted to hospital, now the death rate is 22%. “This is an extremely high percentage which, however, has gone down, compared to the first wave,” Yves Van Laethem stressed.
For patients in intensive care, the death rate has remained stable at around 36% or 37%.