New coronavirus total ‘not as bad as it seems,’ says Belgian virologist
Wednesday, 25 March 2020
After two consecutive days of a declining trend in the number of new people admitted to hospital with the new coronavirus (Covid-19), Wednesday saw an increase in the number of new admissions, infections, and deaths.
Leaving out the weekend figures, the new numbers fall on a curve that is completely in line with the predictions, according to Van Ranst. “It is even less than the exponential increase we would expect without measures. We are not going from 10 to 100 or 200 deaths a day in a few days. The numbers go up, yes, but not as exponentially as feared. And that is really encouraging,” he said in an interview with De Morgen.
Van Ranst is a virologist and epidemiologist at the KU Leuven, who has been widely called upon by Belgian media to shed light on the coronavirus crisis over the last few weeks.
“It is not as bad as it seems,” Van Ranst said. “Only, that is hard to explain. People expect to see an immediate drop, while a less sharp rise is the only thing we can hope for at the moment,” he added.
However, Belgium is getting a grip on the epidemic, he said, but slowly. “That is not as easy to explain, or visually show, as a drop. That’s why I thought it was so annoying that those figures from the previous days provoked such enthusiasm,” Van Ranst said. “Of course, everyone hangs on to them, that is understandable. My task after the weekend was to temper that. And now it’s my task to explain that this is not as negative as it seems,” he added.
The sudden increase of deaths, 56 reported on Wednesday, seem frightening but do not necessarily mean that these people all died in the past 24 hours, according to Van Ranst.
During the press conference by the FPS Public Health on Wednesday, professor Steven Van Gucht also said that registering them can take some time, in some cases. “This number is the sum of the reports from hospitals, care centres and home situations,” Van Gucht said.
“Better figures from the residential care centres were obtained now, which was not always the case before,” Van Ranst said. “In military language, this is called the ‘fog of war.’ In a war situation just after the battle, figures are not very reliable. As is the case here. Would we rather see it differently? Of course. But it is what it is,” he added.
Giving an update on the new number of infections, therefore, would maybe be better once a week, he said. “But every country gives the new figures daily. Changing that now would only cause confusion,” he said. “And so, we will have to explain them every day, with all the energy we have,” Van Ranst added.