Belgium has passed peak, 'but fifth wave not over yet,' says Van Gucht

Belgium has passed peak, 'but fifth wave not over yet,' says Van Gucht
Credit: Belga

The infection peak of Belgium's fifth coronavirus wave was registered on Monday 24 January, and the rise in the number of hospitalisations has started slowing down as well, according to virologist Steven Van Gucht.

The total number of infections may have dropped by 20% in one week, "but the fifth wave is not over yet," Van Gucht said during a weekly press briefing on Friday.

"Caution is still advised," he said.

Over the past week, nearly 32,000 positive tests were registered per day, while the peak at the end of last month saw some 76,000 infections per day. "The highest weekly average per day was one day later, on 25 January, with 52,327 infections," Van Gucht said.

The decline in infections is greatest among teenagers and their parents, the 30 and 40 year-olds, he said, adding that the decrease has also started in the education sector.

Infections rising among the elderly

"Among the elderly, the number of infections is rising: among people over 80, it even increased by 23%," Van Gucht said, adding that the number of positive test results in the workplace is also rising "sharply."

"Working from home if possible remains the starting point," he stressed.

In the past seven days, an average of 364.7 patients were admitted to Belgian hospitals every day as a result of Covid-19. "This is still an increase of 5%, but the increase seems to be slowing down," Van Gucht said.

A total of 4,239 people (+15%) with Covid-19 infection are currently in hospitals, 431 of them in the intensive care unit (+20%).

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"The number of newly-admitted Covid-19 patients to ICU has risen from 20 patients per day at the start of January to 45 per day now," he said. "But that rise has been compensated by the larger number of ICU patients from the previous wave who were discharged from hospital."

"Still, we expect the ICU occupancy to start falling again over the course of this month," added Van Gucht. "And once that happens, we can start relaxing measures following the coronavirus barometer."

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