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Belgium warns of soaring infections between family members

Credit: Federal Public Health Service/Youtube screengrab

As the number of new coronavirus infections in Belgium continues to rise, the health authorities warned the population on Monday that now is the time to take action, during the first coronavirus press conference in a month.

The number of infections has been rising, by 66% over the past 7 days, bringing the average to 154 new infections per day.

“Currently, we notice that infections are mainly happening in clusters. These are family parties, and smaller events, for example. We want to stress that the virus does not become less infectious because you have known someone for years,” said Boudewijn Catry of Sciensano, who will temporarily take Steven Van Gucht’s place at the conferences.

“The number of new infections has been rising for about two weeks. The situation is not dramatic, but it is right now that we need to react,” said Catry. “Let us handle our freedom responsibly before there is no other solution but to restrict it. Now is the time,” he added.

Hard-hit provinces are mainly Antwerp, Limburg and West-Flanders, but there are also clusters in some municipalities in Brussels and Wallonia. “Additionally, the virus is showing up increasingly in the younger, active population, people between 20 and 50,” Catry said.

At the moment, 145 hospital beds are occupied, and the admissions remain stable. The occupation of the intensive care unit is still low, at 3%. On average, 2 deaths happen every day, as a result of the virus.

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“When you experience symptoms that could point to the coronavirus, such as fever, aches over your whole body, headaches, loss of taste and/or smell, fatigue, sore throat, coughing, stay at home,” Catry said. “Do not assume it is just a cold,” he added.

“This could of course point to something else, too, but given the situation, we must consider Covid-19. Stay at home, call your doctor. But again: stay at home. If it is Covid-19, you are most infectious right at the start,” he said.

Belgium’s contact tracing methods will be drastically sped up, and the quality of the data will be improved, according to Karine Moykens, chairman of the Interfederal Committee Testing & Tracing.

From now on, up to 90 contacts will be able to be registered (instead of 10), people will also be able to call back to the centre, and the flow of information will be considerably accelerated, according to Moykens.

“We have to make sure that this rise does not become more than a speed bump that we need to pass together, and does not turn into a full second wave,” said Yves Stevens, spokesperson for the National Crisis Centre.

“We hope this rise in infection has been a wake-up call,” Stevens said. “More than ever, keep following the rules. Wear your face mask where necessary. Keep taking care of yourself and others,” he added.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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