Belgium could switch to ‘code orange’ on barometer by mid-February

Belgium could switch to ‘code orange’ on barometer by mid-February
The bonus concerns people who work in sectors where wages are the lowest, for example in the catering industry. Credit: Belga

If Belgium’s coronavirus figures continue their current decline, the country may be able to switch to ‘code orange’ on the coronavirus barometer by mid-February, according to virologist Steven Van Gucht.

It seems that the peak of the Omicron wave in Belgium was on Monday 24 January, when 75,862 new infections were registered in one day. Since then, the daily figure has been falling steadily.

“If the figures continue to evolve in this way, they may be low enough by mid-February to switch to ‘code orange’ on the barometer,” Van Gucht told VRT.

The infection figures have to be taken with a grain of salt, however, as many people use self-tests and do not necessarily end up in the official statistics. “But the number of positive tests also seems to be decreasing, which is good news. We had predicted that the peak of this wave would be at the end of January.”

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Earlier on Tuesday, virologist Marc Van Ranst already stated that Belgium passed the peak of its fifth wave “a few days ago,” with a particularly pronounced decrease in infections in the Flemish provinces.

Like Van Ranst, Van Gucht also pointed out that the daily hospital admissions are still on the rise, but added that it will likely only be a matter of days before those figures start dropping as well.

“Either we are at the peak now, or it will follow in a few days. We have already seen that the decline in hospitalisations only occurs a week after the decline in the number of infections,” he said. “The number of occupied intensive care beds is also rising at the moment, but I do not expect it to reach 500 again.”

Moving towards code orange

Still, Van Gucht stressed that the virus will continue to circulate for some time, especially given the infectious nature of Omicron, but he does not think this is a major problem.

“The most important question is what it means for the healthcare system. I expect that the pressure will ease, because more people will have built up immunity,” he added. “We can be optimistic, because we also do not immediately see a new variant of the virus that seems to be taking over from Omicron.”

Currently, Belgium is in ‘code red’ for the coronavirus barometer, which means that the Government considers the situation to be at a high risk of overloading the healthcare system.

‘Code orange’ can come into effect when there are fewer than 500 coronavirus patients are admitted to ICU – a condition that has already been met – and the number of daily hospitalisations is between 65 and 149, which Van Gucht expects will be “by mid-February.”

A more in-depth explanation about the different phases of Belgium’s coronavirus barometer and when they apply can be found here.

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