Thousands of positive Covid cases go undetected in Brussels every day

Thousands of positive Covid cases go undetected in Brussels every day
Pacheco test and vaccination centre in Brussels. Credit: The Brussels Times/ Lauren Walker

Official figures show that some 5,500 people living in Brussels are testing positive for Covid-19 every day. But according to the region’s health commission, the actual number of infections could be as high as 43,000.

In the last seven days, 39,000 people tested positive in the region and the positivity rate has risen to almost 46% (meaning almost half of all tests returned a positive result). However, the Common Community Commission (Cocom) has said that these figures could be far lower than the reality.

“Some suggest as many as 43,000 positive cases daily in the Brussels Region,” a statement released on Friday read. The rapid rise in infections is due to the Omicron variant, which is accounting for almost all cases in Belgium and is resulting in large-scale staff absenteeism in several sectors.

As is the case across the whole of Belgium, the number of Covid-19 hospitalisations is increasing in the region (up by 28% compared to last week), but patients are now discharged more quickly and end up in intensive care less regularly.

“This shows that the booster dose protects against the more severe forms of the disease and reduces the risk of hospitalisation by 70% to 90%,” the statement read.

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“However, we must remain vigilant as the situation is changing day by day and several sectors, such as hospitals, are strongly impacted by the current absenteeism rates.”

On 26 January, 685 people were admitted to a hospital as a result of Covid-19 in the Brussels-Capital Region. The number of people in intensive care units in Brussels hospitals is also increasing, and 31 people died of Covid-19 in the region this week.

Facilitating easier testing

In Belgium as a whole, 52,043 new coronavirus infections are being recorded on a daily basis. Yet this too could be an underestimation, in part due to the changed testing strategy.

Preliminary figures for Monday (24 January) show that more than 73,000 infections were registered across the country, which would break the previous record set on Monday 17 January.

Due to the rise in the number of tests being requested, Cocom has advised that people get tested in one of the participating Brussels pharmacies (which offer rapid antigen tests). Belgium also recently launched a tool that allows anyone with a positive self-test to obtain a code for a free PCR one by requesting a code.

Last year, a website was launched where people showing Covid-19 symptoms can find out if they need to be tested or not, and how to get a code to get a PCR test.

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