“Never before has so much coronavirus circulated in Belgium,” virologist Steven Van Gucht said on Friday, which is clearly reflected in the figures published by the Sciensano Public Health Institute on Saturday morning.
Between 5 and 11 January, an average of 24,162 new coronavirus infections were identified every day – up by 51% on the previous seven days. On Monday, a record number of 37,000 new cases was confirmed in one day, by far the highest number since the start of the pandemic in Belgium.
The average number of tests taken per day in the same period increased by 23% since last week, sitting at around 88,389.6. The positivity rate has also increased rapidly to 29.1%, meaning out of 100 undertaken coronavirus tests, almost 30 now show a positive result.
However, a new testing strategy is in place since Monday, meaning vaccinated people who have had a high-risk contact are no longer required to have a PCR test done, which could have an impact on the positivity rate.
Despite the increase in cases starting around Christmas, Covid-19 deaths have continued to drop until now. During the same period, an average of 20 Covid-19 patients died per day, down 11% since last week. Total deaths in Belgium since the beginning of the pandemic is 28,612.
More people hospitalised, but fewer severe cases
The number of coronavirus patients being hospitalised continues to increase, but at a much slower pace than the number of infections. Between 8 and 14 January, an average of 189.6 patients suffering from Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals per day – up 8% on the seven days previous.
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On Friday, a total of 2,106 people were in Belgian hospitals due to an infection (66 more than on Thursday), of whom 410 (+4) are being treated in intensive care and 228 are on a ventilator (-9). Overall, a declining trend is still ongoing in the number of patients in a life-threatening condition.
The reproduction rate (Rt) currently sits at 1.06. This figure represents the average number of people that contract the virus from each infected person, and when it is above 1, it means that the epidemic is gaining ground in Belgium.
However, the incidence (the number of new cases per 100,000 inhabitants) continues to rise and now sits at 2,441 over the past 14 days.
As of Thursday, more than 8.82 million people are fully vaccinated – 88% of Belgium's adult population and 77% of the total population.
Meanwhile, almost 5.66 million people have received a booster dose of a coronavirus vaccine, representing 61% of over -18s and 49% of the entire population. The majority of adults should have had the opportunity to get a booster dose by March 2022.