The government has ordered all hospitals to free up half of their intensive care unit beds for patients who tested positive with coronavirus as emergency unit admissions rose to 400, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said during Friday's Consultative Committee.
Once national admissions in intensive care units reach this figure, the government sends a formal letter to hospitals asking them to prepare for a worsening situation, in line with previous agreements, Vandenbroucke explained.
"This afternoon, we reported 204 hospital admissions, that is a lot, and the number of patients with corona in intensive care has now increased to 400," he said, adding that "the government has asked hospitals to shift from phase 1A to phase 1B which means that they have to prepare to make half of the intensive care beds accessible for use by patients who tested positive for the coronavirus."
However, this does not mean that there should be a delay in other health procedures, and people should not hesitate to go to hospitals and doctors, if they have complaints unrelated to Covid, Vandenbroucke emphasised.
"Even with hospitals in this phase 1B, they are still very safe places, and this is not a signal that these other procedures should be delayed," he added.
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"The wrong decision is to postpone other necessary concerns. That has happened in recent months, but it should not happen now," he said.
No relaxations of measures were made during the meeting on Friday, in light of rising figures.
“After months of plateauing in the figures, we see that the number of new infections, and especially the number of new hospital admissions, is on the rise," said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.
"The fact that so many people end up in hospital is a sign of things to come, and we have to take it into account. We can only slow down the virus with our behaviour and by following the rules together,” he added.
Both De Croo and Vandenbroucke recognised the toll that the ongoing measures are having on people, especially on their mental health.
"We have a lot of worries about mental health too, it is important for this reason to keep schools open," Vandenbroucke said, "even if it is only half-time."
"I would also like to add that I have suggested extra measures to the government for the direct support of the mental health industry to strengthen the capacity in mental health care," he said.
The Brussels Times