The autumn holidays may have caused a slight delay, but the number of new coronavirus infections in Belgium continues to increase. Virologist Steven Van Gucht has made some striking comparisons to previous infection waves.
Taking 1 November out of the equation, Van Gucht estimates that there are 20% more infections than last week. "The number of infections is at one of the highest levels since the beginning of the pandemic. Only in the second wave did we record more infections."
A large number of infections are currently detected among children under 12 years old, which is why Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke is calling to vaccinate that group as soon as the European Medicines Agency (EMA) gives the green light.
The percentage of positive tests is high, accounting for 11.9% of all tests taken and bringing the positivity ratio to its highest level in 2021.
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While an average of 201 Covid-19 patients are admitted to hospitals every day, a total of 284 patients were admitted on Wednesday, which is "the highest number of this fourth wave for the time being," he said.
Van Gucht expects "increasing pressure on hospitals, with an impact on non-Covid care," with between 250 and 300 admissions per day next week. Currently, 472 Covid-19 patients are in intensive care, but after the weekend, "that will probably be more than 500," he said.
Vaccines alone can't stop the spread
The vaccination campaign is ensuring that the country does not feel the large increase in hospitals as strongly as in previous waves, Van Gucht explains.
"Proportionally, the number of infections is much higher than the number of people who end up in hospital, but the figures are clear," he said. "Vaccination alone is currently insufficient to bring the epidemic under control."
In the meantime, several experts have already called on the government to "urgently" implement extra measures in the country, with an emphasis on teleworking.
“People see the rising numbers, so they also expect additional measures to be taken," virologist Marc Van Ranst told the Belga News Agency.
"It is delicate to name specific issues or sectors now," he added. "The government has a buffet of measures at its disposal: the composition of the final package will be important."