Belgium can expect a fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic in September, or perhaps before the end of August, experts are predicting, according to De Morgen.
Yesterday, for the first time in months, the daily average of new cases of the virus rose. There will be no reporting of disease figures for the time being, health institute Sciensano said. However all epidemiological models are predicting that the bottom has been reached, and the upturn will be seen to be continuing when new figures are presented on Tuesday.
September would be a logical time to expect a new wave, said virologist Steven Van Gucht.
“People are back from vacation, schools are open again and the weather is getting worse. This will translate into a sharp increase in the number of infections, especially with the delta variant. People who are not vaccinated will end up in hospital and possibly die.”
Those who are vaccinated, on the other hand, need not worry too much. All four vaccines used in Belgium – AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – are effective against the variants known to date, according to the European Medicines Agency.
“A degree of protection of more than 90 percent after two doses is very good,” said Van Gucht. “We cannot achieve those high percentages with the flu vaccine. The corona vaccines protect against serious illness, although mild or moderate symptoms after infection are still possible.”
The trouble is, only 44.1% of adults, and 35.4% of the whole population, was fully vaccinated at the last count on Friday.
And if people let all measures to protect against the disease drop, the models predict a fourth wave in mid-August. It may not be as serious as last year thanks to the degree of vaccination, but it will be equally serious for some.
The big worry at the moment is the delta variant, which is rampant in Portugal and to a lesser extent in Spain, which can expect large numbers of Belgian holidaymakers this summer.
“For the whole of Spain, we count 110 infections per 100,000 inhabitants over a period of fourteen days. That is twice as many as in our country, which has an incidence of 45,” explained biostatistician Geert Molenberghs.
“Portugal is doing even worse with 165. The number of infections is increasing very quickly. In greater Lisbon, this is already translating into increasing pressure on the hospital system.”
“The Risk Assessment Group has put Portugal on a par with India, South Africa and Brazil,” said infectious diseases expert Erika Vlieghe.
“These are countries where worrying variants are very dominant and where the epidemic is picking up. Travel is therefore an important risk factor, especially to those countries.”
Travel is officially still discouraged, she pointed out, but there is no political will to move to a complete ban.
“The way you travel also plays an important role. There's a big difference between touring in a mobile home on one side or hopping on a plane to party every night at your holiday destination,” she said.
“Above all, there is a difference between what is officially and legally allowed and what is smart. We need to fully vaccinate everyone who wants it as soon as possible. Until that happens, we have to take it easy and respect the basic rules: keep your distance, wear a mask and limit your contacts.”