'End not yet in sight': infections will decrease from end of February, says Van Gucht

'End not yet in sight': infections will decrease from end of February, says Van Gucht
Virologist Steven Van Gucht. Credit: Belga

Belgium is nearing the peak of the fifth coronavirus wave but the end is not yet in sight, with a decrease only expected at the end of February, according to virologist Steven Van Gucht.

The number of infections is expected to decrease slowly from the end of February or the beginning of March. But with a new record of over 62,000 cases in one day set on Monday, Van Gucht called for caution in a weekly press briefing on Friday.

"More than 60,000 new cases were confirmed on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and the actual number of infections is many times higher. The end of the fifth wave is not yet in sight," he said, adding that he expects another record this week.

The scenarios suggest that the peak for hospitals may be reached in late January or early February, Van Gucht said. "Covid-related hospital admissions are still accelerating."

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However, while a total of 2,736 Covid patients are now in hospitals (+34%), he said that "the hospital figures are still in the most optimistic scenario and the situation remains manageable at the moment."

Of all detected infections, 5% are caused by the Delta variant, the rest are Omicron, Van Gucht said. "The relatively milder course of the fifth coronavirus wave is due to the immunity (by vaccines and previous infections) and possibly also the milder nature of the Omicron variant."

The good news is also that the wave of Omicron infections started among people in their 20s and positive tests in this age group are declining. Van Gucht expects that in a few weeks' time, a similar decrease will also be seen among teenagers and children.

This afternoon, the Consultative Committee will meet to discuss the coronavirus barometer, which aims to make it easier to manage the next weeks and months of the pandemic. An overview of the topic on the table can be found here.

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