‘No clear explanation’ for Belgium’s stabilising Covid-19 infections
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‘No clear explanation’ for Belgium’s stabilising Covid-19 infections

Credit: Belga

Even though Belgium’s most recent coronavirus figures indicate a stabilisation of the number of new infections, health officials have no clear explanation for why the decrease is stopping.

“On a weekly basis, we still see a slight decrease in the number of infections across Belgium, but the figures for the last few days are more indicative of stabilisation,” said virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht.

“We have no exact explanation for this stabilisation yet, but we suspect that there are various elements behind it,” he said, adding that the trend is particularly notable in Flanders and the Walloon province of Luxembourg.

The recent gradual increase in the number of Covid-19 tests carried out since 23 November is a possible explanation, according to Van Gucht. “People without symptoms are also being tested again, and a number of infections have been picked up which previously remained under the radar, as a result.”

However, the number of tests has “only increased slightly” in recent days, and the changed testing strategy does not explain the new trend, “or only for a small part,” he said.

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Additionally, the number of infections among children and teenagers is also increasing, “very probably” due to the reopening of schools a few weeks ago.

The number of confirmed infections in children up to 10 years old has seen an increase of 46% on a weekly basis, and an increase of 10% was reported in children aged 10 to 19.

“In absolute numbers, however, the number of infections is still much lower in children and teenagers than in adults,” Van Gucht said.

It is unclear where exactly these infections occurred. “It may have been within the family, or at the school itself,” he said. “The past has shown that children have contracted infections more often in the household than in the school.”

While the increase in infections among children is not entirely unexpected, “it does illustrate that we still need to be cautious when it comes to contacts between children and their grandparents, especially with the upcoming festive season,” Van Gucht said.

In the province of West-Flanders, the number of Covid-19 infections among people over 80 years old is also increasing, and in the provinces of Antwerp and Luxembourg, people in their forties are getting infected more.

“In the province of Luxembourg, we believe this may be due to border traffic with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg,” Van Gucht said. “After all, many Belgians work in the Grand Duchy, which currently has one of the highest contamination rates in Europe.”

However, he stressed that these possible reasons were all speculation, as there is still no proof of the exact origin of the infections.

Over the past week, an average of 2,163 new coronavirus infections per day was detected throughout Belgium, compared to 2,403 the week before, which is a 10% drop on a weekly basis.

“As a result, the number of infections only halves every 46 days,” Van Gucht said. “At this rate, the threshold of 800 cases per day is much further away, it could take until February before we reach it.”

This threshold of 800 new daily cases, along with 75 hospital admissions per day, was announced by Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke as the target figures that must be reached before the restrictions across the country can be relaxed again.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times