Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations drop, deaths keep rising

Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations drop, deaths keep rising
Covid-19 patient in hospital. Credit: Belga

Between 31 January and 6 February, an average of 26,454 new coronavirus infections were identified every day — a 42% decrease on the previous seven days, according to the figures published by the Sciensano Public Health Institute on Thursday morning.

The Omicron variant currently accounts for 95.5% of all cases in Belgium.

The average number of PCR tests taken per day in the same period decreased by 32% to 75,958.4. The positivity rate dropped after reaching a record-high and now sits at 38.8%, meaning just under 40 out of 100 tests that are taken have a positive result.

Despite the fifth wave starting around Christmas, the number of people dying as a result of the virus remained stable until now. Between 31 January and 6 February, an average of 41 Covid-19 patients died per day, up by 24% since last week.

The increase in deaths is mainly among people aged over 85, both in and outside of residential care centres. Here, the number of infections increased by 30%, virologist Steven Van Gucht said during a press conference on Friday last week.

Total deaths in Belgium since the beginning of the pandemic amount to 29,497. For the first time in two months, more than 50 deaths were recorded per day on Friday last week.

Situation in Belgian hospitals

Between 3 and 9 February, an average of 315.7 patients suffering from Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals per day – a decrease of 14% on the seven days previous.

This number reflects how many people end up in hospital specifically because of the virus, not people who end up in hospital with another condition and then test positive for the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, a total of 4,091 people were in Belgian hospitals due to an infection, 97 fewer than on Tuesday. This number covers all patients who tested positive for Covid-19, including those who were first admitted with a different condition.

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The number of patients in a life-threatening condition increased slightly during the weekend but has once again stabilised. Currently, 430 people are being treated in intensive care (-1), while 189 (-4) patients are on a ventilator.

Van Gucht said the ICU occupancy in the country is expected to start falling over the course of this month. Once this has happened, the government can look at relaxing measures following the coronavirus barometer rules. On Friday, the Consultative Committee will meet to discuss this possibility.

90% of adults vaccinated

A UK analysis found that the risk of hospitalisation is lower for Omicron cases after both two and three doses of vaccine, with a 77% to 85% reduction in the risk of hospitalisation after three doses compared to unvaccinated people who are infected with the Omicron variant.

As of Tuesday, more than 8.89 million people are fully vaccinated – 90% of Belgium's adult population and 77% of the total population.

Meanwhile, more than 6.71 million people have received a booster dose of a coronavirus vaccine, representing 72% of over-18s and 58% of the entire population. The majority of adults should have had the opportunity to get a booster dose by March 2022.

The reproduction rate (Rt) between 26 January and 1 February was 0.98. This figure represents the average number of people that contract the virus from each infected person, and when it is above 1, it means that the epidemic is gaining ground in Belgium.

The incidence (the number of new cases per 100,000 inhabitants) is continuing to decrease and now sits at 4,371 over the past 14 days.

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