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Belgian epidemiologist fears third wave around the corner

© Belga

Conditions for a third wave of the novel Coronavirus are present in Belgium, including many converging elements, epidemiologist Marius Gilbert said on Saturday on the RTBF radio and TV station.

First of all, there was a increase in new infections during the week, especially in Brussels and Eastern Flanders, whereas there had been fewer tests, the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) epidemiologist said on “Le Grand Oral,” a joint programme of the RTBF’s Channel 1 and Le Soir.

Moreover, the reproduction rate has been above 1 for a number of days and is now 1.12, he added.

There is also a stronger presence of the more contagious British strain among the new infections in Belgium. Since December, the proportion of cases of this variant has kept on increasing, Gilbert said, even though the increase is slower than in other countries.

Experts feel 53% of new infections registered in Belgium over the past week were caused by the British strain, Sciensano and the Crisis Centre indicated on Friday. The week before, the British strain accounted for 38% of new infections.

Finally, the last major study by the University of Antwerp on people’s compliance and motivation with regard to social distancing and health measures related to COVID-19 shows “a very marked drop in the past 10 days in compliance and an increase in close contacts,” the expert said.

This study also showed that more people had kissed or shaken the hand of someone outside their family in the past two weeks and that physical contacts had spiked during the Carnival holidays.

“Put the three together and you have all the ingredients for a third wave,” the epidemiologist concluded. However, if it does occur, it will not be as severe as previous ones, he said.

For the moment, it is impossible to tell whether the spread of the virus has plateaued in Belgium or if the recent spike represents the start of an exponential curve and third wave, epidemiologist Yves Coppieters said on Friday.

He feels the final answer to this question will only be known in a week’s time.

The Brussels Times

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