Counting care centre deaths is not the smartest strategy, says Marc Van Ranst

Counting care centre deaths is not the smartest strategy, says Marc Van Ranst
Van Ranst called the leak "irresponsible, reprehensible and almost criminal behaviour." Credit: Belga

Belgium’s high death count, which includes almost all people who die in a residential care centre, is not the smartest way of counting when profiling the country internationally, according to Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst.

“We count just about everyone who dies in our residential care centres, and other countries don’t,” Van Ranst said on Monday in an interview with Flemish television programme Gert Late Night.

“If you count everyone who dies in one of our 1,500 care centres, it is as if no one ever dies from something else anymore,” Van Ranst said. “Then, you get crazy numbers,” he added.

Countries never intended for these figures to start getting compared to others, so they never agreed on a way of counting, according to him. “This is probably not the smartest strategy when it comes to profiling your country,” Van Ranst said.

If we would not count the figures in the residential care centres, “we would fall somewhere in the middle,” said Van Ranst. “That’s clear for us, and for everyone who is working with those figures. But for everyone just glancing at them once, they think unbelievable things are going on here and that we need help,” he added.

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Belgium has never had images like in Italy or New York, where the hospitals are overrun and the people cannot keep up, said Van Ranst.

“We know how many people die in our hospitals, and we are doing some tests in the care centres. That is what other countries usually do. That’s it,” Van Ranst. “But we count all the deaths. That is indeed not very smart, but you could say that we are trying to do better than all the other countries,” he added.

However, Belgium’s high figures do not result in unnecessary fear, he said. “I think our people can see that it’s not so bad in our hospitals, and that we are going in the right direction. I do not think the people in Belgium are worried about the international comparison,” he said.

“Our figures are decreasing. Of course, we would all like them to decrease faster. Some time ago, I said somewhere around half May, which is still about a month away, we would have very low numbers, and I think that’s still true,” Van Ranst said, adding that he does not think the virus will be completely gone by then.

“But we are getting this epidemic under control, thanks to the measures and everyone who respects them,” he said.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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