Coronavirus spread ‘limited’ in Belgium for now, say health authorities
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    Coronavirus spread ‘limited’ in Belgium for now, say health authorities

    Officials at FPS Santé said that one reason behind a "slight dip" in confirmed cases at the weekend could be the stemming of travellers' return from Italy. © Belga

    The outbreak of the new Covid-19 coronavirus in Belgium remains limited for the time being, federal health authorities said.

    The detection of new cases of the virus over the weekend brought the counter of infected patients in Belgium to 200, in figures which are set to be updated in a live press conference by health officials on Monday.

    Out of 422 samples analysed on Saturday, scientists at KU Leuven said 31 were positive, adding to the 59 out of 441 samples which tested positive on Friday.

    The federal health public service (FPS Santé) said that the numbers pointed to a “slight drop” in the confirmed cases, meaning the virus’ progression in the country was still “limited.”

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    “Currently, we are witnessing the start of Covid-19’s spread among the Belgian population, which remains limited,” the FPS Santé said in a statement.

    The comments come after the number of confirmed cases surged throughout the first week of March, with the number of positive tests at times doubling from one day to the other.

    The causes cited for the slight dip in the virus’ progression were that the flow of travellers returning from Italy —where a surge in cases and sweeping containment measures made it the second most affected country outside China— could be coming to an end.

    The institute also said that the fact that testing priority was given “for the time being, to samples of people whose symptoms could lead to a hospitalisation” could explain the minor drop in cases, adding that less testing over the weekend could also be a factor.

    The news comes as some medical and virology professionals in Belgium issue criticism of the government’s handling of the outbreak, with one lab director in Antwerp warning of the risks of insufficient testing.

    On Sunday, the College of Francophone general practitioners said that it was “high time” that authorities adopted a more coordinated approach to contain the outbreak in order to overcome potential discrepancies in handling, referring to the nine government ministers currently competent for the task.

    Gabriela Galindo
    The Brussels Times