Belgian hospitals nearing critical phase, health minister warns
Saturday, 17 October 2020
Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke on Friday evening urged Belgians to comply with stricter stay-in-place measures announced by the Government, while drawing attention to the additional pressure being placed on the country’s Belgium’s hospitals.
“We’re on the verge of a tragedy,” Vandenbroucke told the Belga news agency at the end of a Consultative Committee meeting. “I don’t wish to hide it. It’s preferable to tell it as it is.”
His remarks came hours after his department announced that all university and general hospitals in Belgium had to be able to enter Phase 1B of the national emergency hospital plan by 26 October.
The measure, which the Department said was decided following consultation with the hospital sector, means 50% of beds in intensive care, and four times that number in conventional hospitalisation need to go to novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) patients.
“We have 2,000 beds in intensive care in all of Belgium,” Vandenbroucke said. “This capacity is indispensable. Imagine if we were to close half of these beds, you’d say it’s criminal because we need them, but that’s what happens when the virus gains ground and these beds are given to patients suffering from coronavirus.”
“We’re not there yet, but the situation is becoming difficult in a number of hospitals,” the Health Minister added. “If that continues, hospitals will not be able to provide the regular basic care they need to give to all their patients. That must not happen.”
On Friday evening, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced that Belgium would be entering Phase 4. This means, among other things, that bars and restaurants will be shut, the sale of alcohol after 8.00 p.m. would be banned, only one close contact per person would be allowed, and a curfew would be imposed.
Minister Vandenbroucke said the measures would not take effect before Monday, but he appealed to the population to “show proof of intelligence this weekend.”
“Stay home. Please do not spend your time in cafés while it’s still allowed. It’s really not smart,” he said.
The Minister explained that the measures could not be applied directly.
“These measures need to be respected and people who do not comply will be sanctioned,” he said. “However, sanctions can only be imposed on the basis of a published decision of the government, and that won’t be before Monday.”